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UConn's Role in Shaping the Future of Medicine

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Imagine a world in which doctors can take your DNA profile, combine it with basic information about you -- such as your weight and whether or not you're a smoker -- and create a model that would not only predict how likely you are to develop any given health condition, but also outline the specific treatments that would heal you and your body most effectively.

This is the exciting -- and very real -- future of what is now called "personalized medicine."

In essence, scientists in this emerging field of science are looking to decipher human beings' genetic code -- that is, which genes perform which functions -- and then translate that data in order to understand the origin of different diseases, as well as what types of medical treatments would best serve any given individual and his or her unique genetic makeup.

Take, for instance, cancer. While in many cases cancer patients undergo the standard treatment options, such as surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy, these treatment methods do not always succeed and can result in negative side effects. With individualized medicine eventually on their side, however, all of this could change. Physicians will, in all probability, be able to target cancerous tumors with a far more accurate treatment regimen, understanding what sorts of medications or therapies are most likely to work best for a specific patient. This opens the door to a whole new world of medical care -- one that would offer a tailor-made approach to treating and preventing health problems in individual patients.

Here at the University of Connecticut, we recently established a unique new partnership with the internationally renowned Jackson Laboratory, a leader in genetics research and individualized medicine. Jackson is launching a billion-dollar project on the campus of our University's Health Center in Farmington, Connecticut, in concert with our scientists and clinicians.

Today, partnerships like this are as valuable as they are rare. We see in this collaboration an incredible opportunity for our University to offer the resources and intellectual capital we have here to help serve the greater good, hand in hand with the bioscience industry.

Universities like UConn are, of course, in the business of educating the next generation of leaders, scientists and scholars. But as a public institution of higher learning, we are also committed to bettering the lives of our citizens through research and service.

The partnership itself is a component of a larger, statewide initiative called Bioscience Connecticut -- a bold $864 million plan championed by Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy. It is a plan designed to jump-start Connecticut's economy by investing in our University Health Center, creating jobs and generating long-term, sustainable economic growth based on bioscience research, innovation, entrepreneurship, commercialization and health care.

To play a pivotal role in this initiative is certainly cause for celebration across our University and Health Center, as we look forward to uniting with university research labs across the region, contributing to the creation of jobs in research and other areas, and ultimately witnessing the emergence of a groundbreaking field of science that will have a positive impact on the health of individuals worldwide.

As science comes to possess an ever deeper understanding of our individual genetic codes, we are sure to see medical treatment and prevention transform into a personal, and far more precise, science. It is a future in which UConn is excited to help shape.