Precision Medicine
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What breakthroughs will transform how
we diagnose and treat diseases?

How will understanding genetic variation
lead to better health?
How do we ensure the ethical use
of new medical technologies?
How will understanding genetic variation
lead to better health?
What breakthroughs will transform how
we diagnose and treat diseases?

How do we ensure the ethical use of new medical technologies?

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From fundamental discoveries to clinical treatments, Columbia is a world leader in medicine, science, and technology. Through the Columbia Precision Medicine Initiative we are harnessing the vast intellectual resources of our faculty to drive a revolution in health care. Precision medicine represents the next step in medical diagnosis, prevention, and treatment based on an individual’s variation in genes, environment, and lifestyle. It will leverage and increase clinicians’ ability to understand relevant biological differences between individuals to deliver tailored medical care.

The vision of precision medicine – a new, more precise, deliberate, preventative, and affordable paradigm of care – demands an abundance of new scientific discovery, as well as an understanding of potential effects on society. Scientists in the Arts & Sciences are focused on a range of precision medicine challenges, including:

TAILORED TREATMENTS

All medications currently in use interact with only two percent of the proteins in our cells. Columbia chemists and biologists are using new information on the structure of cell proteins to gain access to the other 98 percent, creating possibilities for new targeted approaches to disease. By integrating chemistry with biophysics and models of patient-specific disease states, we will be able to take an individually tailored approach to treating the specific disease found in each patient.

GENETIC VARIATION

Columbia is tackling a fundamental question in human genetics first posed a half century ago: to what extent is the diversity of human traits accidental – reflective simply of mutations introduced in copying DNA – and to what extent is it beneficial and due to adaptation to past or current environments? A stellar group of scientists are working to understand genetic variation at Columbia, leading the research that will allow us to predict how genetic variation contributes to disease risk, laying the scientific groundwork for precision medicine.

MOLECLUAR MOVIES

Understanding how biological molecules, such as proteins, work requires a high-resolution movie detailing how their structure and dynamics contribute to their function. This helps us to understand how it recognizes and binds to other biomolecules, carries out biochemical reactions, performs mechanical processes, and how it may be targeted for therapeutic effects. Columbia is home to a pioneering community of experts in biomolecular structure and dynamics whose work is transforming how we understand genetic diseases and how we will treat them.


  • Genes that cause MacTel–a rare disease of the retina–remain elusive, but a new study from an international team of researchers has narrowed the search. The researchers combed through the genomes of more than 450 patients and identified five small regions of the genome where MacTel genes are likely to reside.
  • An international study led by Columbia University Medical Center and NewYork-Presbyterian has found that several genes previously implicated only in rare, severe forms of pediatric epilepsy also contribute to common forms of the disorder.
  • Columbia University Medical Center researchers have created a computational tool that can rapidly predict which genes are implicated in an individual’s cancer and recommend treatments.