CHOP Opens New Genome Center

The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia has partnered with the world's largest genomic institute to open a pediatric genome center.

Earlier this week, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia announced a partnership with the Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) on its new Joint Genome Center, which became fully operational last month. Through the partnership, the center will focus sequencing genes responsible for pediatric diseases, in hopes of better understanding how they work and forging new treatment options.

Headquartered in Beijing since 1999, BGI has partnered with institutions—hospitals, colleges, corporations—around the world on other sequencing projects. The CHOP partnership is the institute’s latest.

BGI experts use some of the most sophisticated gene sequencing technology and techniques available. CHOP has developed a pediatric biobank—the largest of its kind—with tissue samples from patients with both rare and common pediatric diseases. So the partnership combines BGI’s sequencing expertise with CHOP’s field data and clinical experts for a new powerhouse facility that can analyze the data, make connections and comparisons across larger sample sets, and, hopefully, find some answers.

As Forbes reports, the Joint Genome Center was fitted with 20 state-of-the-art sequencing instruments, which BGI experts will make use of remotely from China. That way, the technology and patient data stay right here in Philly.

Hakon Hakonarson, director of CHOP’s Center for Applied Genomics, says the end goal is to sequence the genes of every child who comes to CHOP for treatment. In an interview recorded by the hospital, he explains that not only would such an initiative allow you to treat childhood diseases more effectively, it would also “dictate what diseases [patients are] at risk for, and what they may develop when they grow up and become adults, allowing you to intervene in a preventative way.”