The Brotman Baty Institute for Precision Medicine was announced today at a special event at the Husky Union Building (HUB) on the UW Seattle campus. Launched with a gift from Jeffrey H. and Susan Brotman and Daniel R. and Pamela L. Baty, the institute signals a new partnership among Seattle’s premier biomedical research centers — UW Medicine, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Seattle Children’s — to find treatments and cures for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and other diseases.
The institute also reflects the vision of Jeff Brotman, who saw the potential of advancing precision medicine by combining the research expertise of the three organizations and who began planning the gift with his childhood friend, Dan Baty. After he died unexpectedly in August, Susan Brotman, along with Dan and Pam Baty, completed arrangements for the gift.
While Jeff Brotman’s absence was keenly felt during the event, the institute will be part of his legacy as a passionate supporter of medical research and innovation. In moving remarks, Susan Brotman described how her husband was inspired by the vision of precision medicine that President Barack Obama laid out in his 2015 State of the Union address. As a surprise, in a special video message, President Obama celebrated the launch of the institute and thanked the Brotman and Baty families for their generosity.
Precision medicine recognizes that there is no typical patient. Rather, based on the discovery of DNA and the completion of the Human Genome Project, it explores individual differences in lifestyle, environment and biology to identify the best way to diagnose and treat each patient.
In his opening remarks, Dr. Paul G. Ramsey, CEO, UW Medicine, commented on the significance of the institute as part of UW Medicine’s mission to improve the health of the public. “What lies ahead is a faster and more affordable road to health,” he said. “Our ability to target diagnoses, treatments and cures at the individual level will benefit patients around the world.”
Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO and keynote speaker, described how the Puget Sound region has become a hub for cutting-edge biomedical research given the combined research and data-leveraging power of UW Medicine, Fred Hutch and Seattle Children’s. With this platform, the institute will have a deep advantage in the rapid translation of scientific discovery into patient care.
Dr. Jay Shendure, UW professor of genome sciences, will direct the institute. In his remarks, he described the enormous potential of precision medicine. While modern medicine has often approached disease by finding one treatment that can help many people, he said that precision medicine holds the key to finding individualized and effective treatments based on genomic data. Early projects at the institute will include creating a molecular atlas to better understand the diversity and types of cells involved in human disease.
The promise of precision medicine was highlighted by two investigators who will be part of the institute.
Dr. Heather Mefford, UW associate professor of pediatrics and attending physician at Seattle Children’s Hospital, will serve as the institute’s deputy scientific director. In her research lab, precision medicine is already leading to novel therapies for diagnosing and treating pediatric diseases such as pediatric epilepsy. In the case of one family, a rare disease that could not easily be diagnosed when their first child was born was quickly identified three years later to help treat their second child.
Dr. Peter Nelson, prostate cancer researcher and oncologist, has the goal of personalizing prostate cancer care. His lab has already identified the surprising role of the BRCA2 gene —typically associated with breast cancer — as an inherited cause in 10 percent of men with aggressive prostate cancers. With this genetic information, family members can get early screenings to determine their risk of breast and prostate cancers.
The Brotman Baty Institute for Precision Medicine is also an integral part of the University of Washington’s Population Health Initiative, launched and led by President Ana Mari Cauce. In a special video message, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates described the importance of the institute in supporting this initiative and the major impact it will have on health around the world.
The promise of precision medicine and the generosity of the Brotmans and Batys were underscored in closing remarks by Dr. Ramsey, Dr. Jeff Sperring, chief executive officer of Seattle Children’s, and Dr. Gary Gilliland (by video), president and director of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
Visit BrotmanBaty.org to read a press release, watch videos and learn more about precision medicine.