Karolinska University Hospital and Karolinska Institutet establish joint precision medicine centre

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Karolinska University Hospital, Karolinska Institutet and Region Stockholm have been working together for just under a year to increase the pace of introduction of precision medicine, which briefly means diagnostics, treatment and follow-up at the right time and adapted to the patient's individual circumstances.

In this collaboration, the establishment of a virtual precision medicine centre has been a priority.

Ole Petter Ottersen, President of Karolinska Institutet, and Björn Zoëga, Hospital CEO, Karolinska University Hospital have therefore decided to appoint Professor Anna Wedell, at the Department of Molecular Medicine and Surgery (MMK) and Head/Senior Consultant at the Centre for Inherited Metabolic Diseases, Karolinska University Hospital, as Acting Director of the Precision Medicine Centre at Karolinska, (PMCK).

The purpose of PMCK is to promote seamless collaboration between academia and healthcare in diagnostics, treatment, development and research. PMCK will initially work to consolidate and expand the successful collaboration that has developed over several years between the Clinical Genomics facility at SciLifeLab and Karolinska University Laboratory, which has resulted in whole genome sequencing for clinical diagnosis of rare inherited diseases. In the long term, the goal is to spread gradually to other technology and disease areas.

New cross-border ways of working

Precision medicine requires new ways of working across borders, both between academia and healthcare, and between different healthcare units. Advanced infrastructure and technical expertise are available within academia. This needs to be integrated with clinical expertise from several different healthcare specialties for accurate and quality-assured interpretation of the large amounts of data and rapid translation of results into individualized treatment.

Anna Wedell, Professor at the Department of Molecular Medicine and Surgery Photo: Stefan Zimmerman

Anna Wedell and her team have developed bioinformatic tools and cross-disciplinary approaches resulting in precision medicine becoming available for the diagnosis of rare inherited diseases across many different disease groups.

"Clinical whole genome sequencing has played a huge role in the field of rare diseases. Used correctly, targeting each patient's individual disease presentation, new groups of patients can receive correct diagnosis and treatment in a way that was not previously possible. The value of rapid analyses is particularly evident in certain disease areas, such as inherited metabolic disorders or epilepsy, where correct treatment can prevent serious complications while a misdirected treatment can worsen symptoms," says Anna Wedell.

One of the centre's first assignments will be to develop a long-term organisation and working methods to enable the expansion of precision medicine to larger disease groups and more diagnostic areas. An important part of this is to develop a collaboration agreement between Karolinska University Hospital and Karolinska Institutet and to establish precision medicine forums, initially in two focus areas: rare diseases and cancer.

PMCK is part of a broader initiative, task force for accelerated implementation of precision medicine, which is led by KI's Dean Nord, Professor Anna Martling.