In recent weeks, we have experienced some exciting milestones in advancing the NextGen Precision Health Initiative, which will unite the multidisciplinary efforts of our four universities toward a single goal: to transform health care and improve lives in Missouri and beyond.
The NextGen Initiative was officially named on June 21, coinciding with the groundbreaking ceremony for the initiative’s anchoring facility – the NextGen Precision Health Institute, formerly known as the Translational Precision Medicine Complex.
Nearly 300 people from throughout the system as well as many legislators, supporters, alumni and friends attended the event. United States Senator Roy Blunt described recent breakthroughs in therapeutic technology to the audience and expressed hope for the future of this work in Missouri. “If things work as they should and if we make the priority that the University has decided to make here and other places, it will be amazing five years from now the things that we’re talking about as just part of the daily application of what can happen in health care.”
We are grateful to our Board of Curators for setting the NextGen Precision Initiative as a priority that will serve the people of our state as well as enhance the research capabilities of our four universities.
The NextGen Precision Health Institute at Mizzou is expected to open its doors in fall 2021. In this cutting-edge facility, researchers, clinicians and industry partners will collaborate to streamline technology and more rapidly develop therapies for patients. If you think we’re moving fast with this project, you’re absolutely right. There are families across Missouri who need better treatment options right now, not tomorrow.
The McDonald family is one such family and I’m so grateful to them for sharing their story at the groundbreaking ceremony. Mark McDonald is battling Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy, for which there is currently no cure. His father Robert, a physician in Jefferson City, is hopeful about the direction we’re going with precision health. “Fifteen years ago, there was no way you would be able to have gene therapy in a child with Duchenne. Now, we see that is not the case. It is not blind hope. This is based on real science, real progress,” McDonald said in a video shown at the groundbreaking.
Launching the initiative signifies the UM System’s commitment to becoming a national leader in the rapidly-growing field of personalized medicine. Our talented researchers and clinicians are already producing life-changing results and technological advances. The NextGen Initiative will focus and accelerate their work, as well as provide a nationally competitive training ground for our students to become the next generation’s highly-skilled workforce.
One of the most exciting aspects of the NextGen Initiative is how it will be fueled by innovative partnerships that combine our strengths with those of leaders in their fields. Last week, we announced the type of collaboration we dreamed of while shaping the NextGen Initiative: the Alliance for Precision Health, a partnership with Siemens Healthineers. All parties in this creative alliance are enthusiastic about the opportunity. “We’re an engineering company and a science company, but we’re not clinicians. It takes two to make this work. We need great clinicians from the University of Missouri to help us work together in solving real world problems, and that’s why we’re so excited about this,” Dave Pacitti, president of Siemens Medical Solutions USA, Inc. and head of Siemens Healthineers North America said at the announcement event on July 12.
This agreement cements the largest long-term partnership in Siemens’ history and will ensure our universities and health care partners have continued access to leading-edge diagnostic and therapeutic equipment. Our partnership with this world leader in medical technology allows us to proceed full speed ahead with the important work of developing new health care solutions for Missourians. More details about the partnership can be found at www.allianceforprecisionhealth.org.
These exciting developments are just the beginning. We’re working to get our message out to the community through channels such as the Kansas City Star, which published my recent editorial. As more progress is made, we will provide regular updates on the NextGen Initiative.
It is an exciting time to be at the University of Missouri System. We look forward to watching the talents of our staff and faculty bring this powerful project to life.
Mun Y. Choi, Ph.D.
President, UM System