Hackensack Meridian CDI Hosts ‘Genomic Medicine Symposium’   

Hackensack Meridian CDI Hosts ‘Genomic Medicine Symposium’

From massive genome-wide association studies to understand alcohol and substance abuse, down to the level of “epi-mutations” which can contribute to cancer formation, the Hackensack Meridian Center for Discovery and Innovation (CDI)’s first major gathering this year was a resounding success.

The inaugural “Genomic Medicine Symposium: From Bench to Bedside” featured eight noted experts during the all-day event on Feb. 19, was attended by about 100 people.

“The CDI continues to impress – not just with its groundbreaking discoveries, but also as an invaluable hub of science and learning,” said Robert C. Garrett, FACHE, chief executive officer of Hackensack Meridian Health.

“This was a terrific event,” said David Perlin, Ph.D., chief scientific officer and vice president of the CDI. “We heard about exciting future pathways in genomic science that will revolutionize medical science and precision medicine approaches in the years to come.”

“We are proud to have hosted this event and been a hub for this exceptional group of scientists at the top of this exploding field,” added Benjamin Tycko, M.D., Ph.D., a member of the CDI, and one of the organizers of the event.

The speakers were: Daniel Auclair, Ph.D., the scientific vice president of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation; Joel Gelernter, M.D., Foundations Fund Professor of Psychiatry and Professor of Genetics and of Neuroscience and Director, Division of Human Genetics (Psychiatry) at Yale University; James Knowles, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of Cell Biology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn; Tom Maniatis, Ph.D., the Isidore S. Edelman Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, director of the Columbia Precision Medicine Initiative, and the chief executive officer of the New York Genome Center; Bekim Sadikovic, Ph.D., associate professor and head of the Molecular Diagnostic Division of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Western University in Ontario; Helio Pedro, M.D., the section chief of the Center for Genetic and Genomic Medicine at Hackensack University Medical Center; Jean-Pierre Issa, M.D., Ph.D., chief executive officer of the Coriell Research Institute; and Kevin White, Ph.D., the chief scientific officer of Chicago-based TEMPUS Genetics.

In attendance were Garrett, the Hackensack Meridian Health CEO; Ihor Sawczuk, M.D., FACS, president of Hackensack Meridian Health's Northern Market, and the chief research officer of the network; David Siegel, M.D., Ph.D., director of the CDI’s Institute for Multiple Myeloma and Lymphoma; Andre Goy, M.D., the chair and director of the John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center; and dozens of Hackensack Meridian Health physicians and faculty. Also in attendance were leaders from biotech, medical testing, and pharmaceutical industries.

“The CDI is one of the crown jewels in our growing health network,” said Sawczuk.

Among the highlights:

The history of multiple myeloma treatment, how the disease became genetically sequenced, and the ongoing effort to differentiate between the different pathologies for different patients, was given by Dr. Auclair. He spoke of the “Tao of Multiple Myeloma” and how best to compare the biological and medical outcomes of this difficult to treat type of cancer – and the biology of plasma cells themselves.

The Million Veterans Program, looking at huge numbers of patients and the genetic patterns which could hold the key to substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), was presented by Dr. Gelernter, whose team has been tactically finding risk loci for alcohol and opioid disorders, as well as psychiatric trauma.

Dr. Knowles presented intriguing results of genetic deep-dives into the transcriptome and resulting clinical presentations – including the potential first steps in development of human schizophrenia as early as the second trimester in utero.

Modeling Amytrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), and targeting genes which accelerate or slow down the progress of the disease in mouse models, was part of the presentation by Dr. Maniatis, of the New York Genome Center (a collaborator of the CDI).

Using the latest tools and techniques to match methylation defects with clinical presentations of human diseases was a focus of Dr. Sadikovic’s talk.

Some case histories of the use of genomic medicine, at Hackensack Meridian and beyond, were the subject of Dr. Pedro’s presentation. “The counseling aspect is extremely important – you have to know what you’re being tested for,” the doctor told the crowd.

The epigenetics, and very genesis of, cancer itself were the subject of Dr. Issa’s talk – which included the possibility of reversing methylation, thereby preventing or fighting tumors on the most fundamental battleground.

And Dr. White spoke about his company’s success in high information content precision medicine and the working project of developing an operating system to harness future developments in this field.


The Center for Discovery and Innovation (CDI), a newly established member of Hackensack Meridian Health, seeks to translate current innovations in science to improve clinical outcomes for patients with cancer, infectious diseases and other life-threatening and disabling conditions. The CDI, housed in a fully renovated state-of-the-art facility, offers world-class researchers a support infrastructure and culture of discovery that promotes science innovation and rapid translation to the clinic.

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