Emory begins $50M "predictive medicine" program

Emory University has launched a $50 million research initiative focused on using genetic markers to predict what diseases a patient will have--rather than waiting for those diseases to hit a patient later in life. Emory researchers are looking for biomarkers for disease which will tell them how to counsel patients on needed treatments and lifestyle changes.

Part of what distinguishes this effort is the fact that Emory is focusing the initiative on healthy patients, rather than those who seem likely to develop an illness in the near future. So when researchers encounter them, they're not looking for signs of incipient disease, they're studying patients' lifestyle, sleeping patterns, mood and even their religious orientation. Meanwhile, blood samples are broken down into 50 substances and analyzed.

In so doing, Emory is having to walk some ethical lines carefully. In particular, observers note, Emory researchers will have to make some policy decisions as to whether they'll share predictive data with insurance companies and employers. However, Emory is already encrypting the data, stripping it of personal identifiers and processing it it off site.

To learn more about Emory's project:
- read this piece from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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