Health & Fitness

Nicklaus Children’s researchers to sequence the genes of about 1,000 Hispanics

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With the help of a $7 million infusion, Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, flagship of the Miami Children’s Health System, will launch a pioneering program to sequence the genes of about 1,000 Hispanics in hopes to better understand — and serve — the health needs of the fastest-growing population in the country.

The funding comes from philanthropist Denny Sanford and Sanford Health, and it’s directed at the Nicklaus Children’s Personalized Medicine Initiative. The funding is a much-needed lift for two reasons: Hispanics are underrepresented in medical research, including gene sequencing, and up until about two years ago, pediatrics had not benefited much from personalized drug therapy.

“We are at this extraordinary time in healthcare history,” said Jennifer McCafferty-Fernandez, director of Miami Children’s Research Institute & Office of Sponsored Programs. “There’s a wonderful convergence of high-tech screening and gene sequencing … that will help us deliver personalized medicine to our patients.”

Genomic medicine is one of the most promising breakthroughs of past years. It helps doctors determine what therapies and medications work better, according to a patient’s genetic and genomic information. The Nicklaus-Sanford partnership hopes to begin to build a database of common variants and patterns of disease association in this underrepresented population. Researchers can then use results to uncover gene variants that potentially contribute to predisposition for certain diseases, as well as treatment.

“We continue to try to better understand the human conditions,” said Dr. Catherine Hajek of Sanford Health in a statement. “One way to do that is to get down to the basics — our genes. This program will allow us to better understand, and then help serve the Latin and Hispanic communities.”

Nicklaus Children’s Hospital is South Florida’s only licensed specialty hospital exclusively for children. It will open its gene sequencing enrollment in 2018, with an initial look at 300 children and their parents.

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