Research program to study personalized medicine

A new collaborative research program that will use the power of metabolomic profiling to help advance the concept of personalized medicine was announced September 17, 2009 by the Burnham Institute for Medical Research and the Sarah W. Stedman Nutrition and Metabolism Center at Duke University Medical Center.

The research agreement will establish an extension of Duke’s Stedman Center laboratory at Burnham’s Lake Nona campus in Orlando, and combine the Stedman Center’s metabolite profiling expertise (“metabolomics”) with Burnham’s emerging complementary technologies. The collaboration, which will begin in the fall, will clarify the basic mechanisms of disease and identify biomarkers for disease diagnosis and drug action.

The Stedman Center is highly regarded for its metabolic research, including metabolomics profiling of biological samples using mass spectrometry-based technologies. The newly formed Burnham-Stedman metabolomics platform will spawn collaborative opportunities with a larger set of scientists focused on metabolism, thereby expanding the research capacity and the opportunity to develop new technologies for both Duke and Burnham.

“At the Stedman Center, we have been developing sophisticated tools for metabolic profiling for the past six years. Now we have an opportunity to share and further develop those tools and their applications with a major emergent program in metabolic disease research at the Burnham, Lake Nona campus,” said Dr. Christopher B. Newgard, director of the Stedman Center and W. David and Sarah W. Stedman Distinguished Professor in the Department of Pharmacology & Cancer Biology at Duke Medical Center.

Metabolomic profiling is a highly sophisticated technology with potential application to every possible disease process and to research ranging from basic laboratory studies to human clinical studies. The Stedman team recently applied metabolomic technologies to uncover new mechanisms by which overnutrition and obesity leads to insulin resistance, an important contributing condition to type 2 diabetes, and to identify metabolic “signatures” of developing cardiovascular disease.

“Burnham and Stedman Center scientists will be able to exploit the power of these technologies to define disease signatures relevant to diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other diseases,” said Dr. Daniel Kelly, scientific director, Burnham at Lake Nona. “Metabolomic approaches show great promise for identifying diagnostic markers that will aid clinicians in distinguishing disease patterns and in developing individualized treatment plans.”

Metabolomics is a research discipline whereby tiny amounts of biological source material such as blood or cells are analyzed to profile thousands of metabolites. Changes in the levels and composition of metabolites provide a window to monitor biological processes and the course of a disease. Novel insights into the cause of disease can be gleaned from the alteration of this vast constellation of metabolites.

Stedman Center scientists will join Burnham researchers at the Lake Nona campus to establish a series of assays for specific metabolites. It is envisioned this technology platform will promote collaborative studies between the Stedman Center and Burnham.

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