Toward Better Medicine

Gift to propel precision-medicine research, training at HMS, Clalit Research Institute

laptop, globe, test tubes
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Why does SARS-CoV-2 shapeshift wildly from one person to the next, causing barely a sniffle in some but raging, lethal infections in others? Why do people diagnosed with the same cancer and receiving identical treatments have vastly different outcomes?

Untangling the precise factors that underlie such medical mysteries can illuminate individualized treatments based on a person’s genetic predispositions, immune profile, health history, and lifestyle. Such insights can propel forward the science and practice of precision medicine and have a profound effect on human health.

Now, in a decisive step forward on this quest, Harvard Medical School in Boston and Clalit Research Institute in Tel Aviv are launching a joint precision medicine effort, enabled by a donation from the Berkowitz family.  

The gift—the amount of which remains undisclosed at the donors’ request—will establish The Ivan and Francesca Berkowitz Family Living Laboratory Collaboration at Harvard Medical School and Clalit Research Institute.

The program will have two arms: The Ivan and Francesca Berkowitz Family Living Laboratory at HMS (for which DBMI currently seeks postdoctoral research fellows) and The Ivan and Francesca Berkowitz Family Precision Medicine Clinic at Clalit. The two arms will work together to conduct joint research. The Clalit arm also will feature a clinical component that, in addition to research, will provide diagnosis and care for patients with rare, undiagnosed, and hard-to-treat conditions.

The research arm of the initiative will focus on generating insights from data and translating them into frontline clinical interventions. Under its educational arm, it will train the next generation of biomedical informaticians and computational biologists. The work will be led jointly by Isaac Kohane, chair of the Department of Biomedical Informatics in the Blavatnik Institute at HMS, and Ran Balicer, founding director of the Clalit Research Institute and chief innovation officer of Clalit Health Services.

“This work, powered by the passion and vision of the Berkowitz family, is an example of cross-pollination across countries, across institutions, and across disciplines,” said George Q. Daley, dean of Harvard Medical School. “The scientific and educational paths forged by this collaboration and the medical insights enabled by these efforts will ripple beyond borders and across generations.”

Read full article in HMS News