IU Announces Plans for a Personalized Medicine Institute

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Earlier this month, Indiana University announced a major commitment to research in one of healthcare’s most promising fields, personalized medicine. The Indiana Institute for Personalized Medicine will pursue genome-based and pharmacogenomics studies in cardiology, pediatrics, obstetrics and cancer, as well as other areas [1]. The emergence of personalized medicine, which targets individualized treatment and care based on personal and genetic variation, is creating a thriving market. Indeed, the market for personalized medicine in the United States is $232 billion and is projected to grow 11% annually [2].

Indiana Institute for Personalized Medicine

Initial funding of $11.25 million for the institute will be provided by the IU School of Medicine, the school’s Department of Medicine, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, the Indiana Physician Scientist Initiative and the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center. The institue’s members will be drawn from the IU schools of medicine, informatics and nursing.

Dr. David Flockhart, Director of the institute, said [1]:

Much of the future of health care is in personalized medicine, meaning more precise targeting of the right medication to the right patient at the right time. We believe it should lead to cost benefits — it clearly will be better for patients.

The mission of the Indiana Institute for Personalized Medicine will be to conduct research, train new specialists in personalized medicine and promote the translation of scientific discoveries into new more precise therapeutics for patient care. To help move scientific discoveries to patient bedsides, the institute will have a panel of IU scientists that will assist researchers moving their research beyond the laboratory stages. Initially, the advisory panel will have 21 members and be chaired by Wade Clapp, M.D., chairman of the Department of Pediatrics.

Mathew Palakal, Ph.D., associate dean for graduate studies and research at the School of Informatics said [1]:

Research in personalized medicine spans a broad spectrum from systems biology to nanomedicine to gene therapy. Our research in such areas as systems biology, biological network analysis and proteomics, along with our graduate programs in health informatics and bioinformatics, will enable informatics and the School of Informatics to play a significant role in the success of the institute.

Personalized Medicine and Systems Biology

Institute members will include staff from the IU school of Informatics, some of which may also be affiliated with the Indiana Center for Systems Biology and Personalized Medicine (CSBPM). Founded in 2008, the CSBPM works to bring new discoveries in biology to clinical applications. The center’s mission is to cultivate “systems biology” approaches to address translational biomedical research problems.

Systems Biology: an emergent, interdisciplinary field that focuses on complex interactions in biological systems and how those interactions give rise to the function and behavior of that system.

Researchers who examine complex biological systems often feel frustrated because they are unable to put all their data together, in many cases tens of thousands of individual measurements. CSBPM co-director Sunil S. Badve, director of the translational genomics core at the IU School of Medicine and a primary pathologist for breast cancer research, understands the frustrations of both clinicians and basic science researchers. In a 2009 story about the CSBPM, Badve said [3]:

Until recently, cancer was cancer. Technology has advanced, and now we look at hundreds of markers, thousands of markers, at a time. We know the whole genome. So the question is, are there differences in tumor A versus tumor B when it is the same kind of cancer? And, can we exploit those differences for therapy purposes? Is type A cancer more responsive to a certain type of chemotherapy? That is the basis of personalized medicine. Each person has an unusual tumor regardless of whether it is breast or colon or lung cancer, and each unusual tumor needs to be treated according to the characteristics of that tumor.

Personalized Medicine is Promoting Collaboration

A recent first-of-its-kind study from the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development to measure the pharma/biotech industry’s progress in developing personalized medicines found that it is “occupying a growing role in the clinical pipelines of drug developers, and is leading companies to change their R&D paradigms, including how they make go/no-go decisions” [4]. One of the most important findings from the Tufts study revealed that drug developers are teaming with external partners, including academic medical centers and diagnostics developers, to advance the science of personalized medicine. This demonstrates that the process of achieving personalized medicine is dependent on industry-academia and industry-physician collaboration and relationships.


  1. IU Personalized Medicine Institute to Develop Targeted and Individualized Treatments. Indiana University School of Medicine News. 2011 Feb 8.
  2. The New Science of Personalized Medicine: Translating the Promise into Practice. PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. 2009 Oct.
  3. Reassembling the Elephant. Research & Creative Activity. Indiana University Office of the Vice Provost for Research. Volume XXXI Number 2. 2009 Spring.
  4. Personalized Medicines Are Shaping the Way R&D Is Done, According to Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development. Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development. 2010 Nov 16.
About the Author

Walter Jessen, Ph.D. is a Data Scientist, Digital Biologist, and Knowledge Engineer. His primary focus is to build and support expert systems, including AI (artificial intelligence) and user-generated platforms, and to identify and develop methods to capture, organize, integrate, and make accessible company knowledge. His research interests include disease biology modeling and biomarker identification. He is also a Principal at Highlight Health Media, which publishes Highlight HEALTH, and lead writer at Highlight HEALTH.