Huntsville, Ala. — The Smith Family Clinic for Genomic Medicine held a ribbon-cutting and grand opening November 20, 2015. The clinic is believed to be the first in the world designed solely for providing diagnoses to patients with undiagnosed disease via the exclusive use of whole genome sequencing data.
“There are 30 million people living with rare and undiagnosed diseases in this country. Many have been on diagnostic odysseys for an average of seven years, often without a diagnosis. We now have the tools and the team to markedly improve the rate of diagnosis– which is the first step in providing a treatment,” said Howard Jacob, PhD, executive vice president for genomic medicine at HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology and chief medical genomics officer for the clinic.
The clinic is named in honor of the Smith Family. Mark C. Smith, cofounder of Adtran in Huntsville, was an active philanthropist in his community. Smith was diagnosed with head and neck cancer in 2000 and this trying time in his life contributed to his interest in biotechnology. Smith became actively involved with HudsonAlpha and was one of its founding board members and now, his wife Linda is an active member of the HudsonAlpha Board of Directors and the HudsonAlpha Foundation Governing Board. He died in 2007, but his legacy lives on. The Smith Family’s generous support has made it possible to bring personal genomics to patient care in Huntsville and beyond. Linda Smith currently serves on the HudsonAlpha board of directors.
“All the members of the Smith family are honored to have the opportunity to support this first-of-its-kind clinic, the first clinic in the world solely dedicated to using whole genome sequencing for diagnosis,” said Clay Smith, Owner and President of M.C. Smith Interests, Dallas, Texas and Principal of Smith Asset Management Company, located in Dallas, Texas and Huntsville, Alabama. “My mother Linda, my sister Cynthia, and I are thrilled to see this day. My late father Mark Smith was involved with HudsonAlpha from the beginning but I don’t know if he could have foreseen this accomplishment.”
Led by medical director Dr. David Bick, the clinic will focus on utilizing the power of the genomic sequence to identify the causes of illness in children and adults with undiagnosed disease.
“What makes this clinic unique is not only our focus on undiagnosed disease — but also that we will exclusively sequence the whole genome, rather than just part of the genome,” Bick said. “Sequencing the whole genome gives us a much larger data set, and we know by experience that many disease-causing variants aren’t identified by sequencing the exome or panels of genes alone.
Bick added, “Physicians know that establishing a diagnosis is essential to choosing or developing a treatment. Our purpose is to bring whole genomics into the practice of medicine so physicians have more effective tools to identify and understand the underlying causes of disorders.”
Governor Robert Bentley offered his congratulations. “As governor, I’m looking forward to the economic development aspect and the job opportunities that this first-of-its-kind clinic will bring to the state of Alabama. As a doctor, I’m excited about what this clinic means for patient care. Using whole genome sequencing to provide answers to patients is a valuable tool that physicians will be able to use for diagnoses and the prediction and prevention of future diseases,” he said.
The Smith Family Clinic for Genomic Medicine is a collaboration between HudsonAlpha, Children’s of Alabama and University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Medicine. UAB’s Undiagnosed Diseases Program (UDP) diagnoses and treats patients with undiagnosed diseases, also using DNA sequencing for diagnosis. The program is expanding in January to two clinics, with adults being seen at the Kaul Genetics Building at UAB and pediatric patients being seen at a new clinic located at Children’s of Alabama.
“The goal of this collaboration is to make the power of genomic medicine available to more people across the state who need it now,” said Dr. Bruce Korf, chair of the UAB Department of Genetics and director of the Undiagnosed Diseases Program at UAB. “UAB’s Undiagnosed Diseases Program similarly sees both children and adults with undiagnosed disorders and uses whole genome sequencing at HudsonAlpha to assist in diagnosis.”
“Children’s of Alabama is pleased to be a part of this exciting collaborative that holds such promise for the future of pediatric health care,” said Mike Warren, president and CEO of Children’s of Alabama.
The clinic is more than 4,500 square feet and has 25 rooms housed in the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certified 701 McMillian Way location. It has telemedicine capabilities so diagnoses may be delivered remotely in collaboration with physicians offsite. Genetic counselors will provide pre- and post- sequencing counseling in the clinic.
The genomic sequencing and interpretation will be performed in the HudsonAlpha Clinical Services Laboratory, LLC..
To learn more, visit smithfamilyclinic.org.
About the Smith Family Clinic: The Smith Family Clinic for Genomic Medicine has been established to identify the causes of undiagnosed diseases believed to be genetic in origin. By using the most advanced sequencing technology in HudsonAlpha’s Clinical Services Laboratory to perform whole genome sequencing, the clinic will help families and physicians find answers to these unknown causes of disease. World-renowned pioneers in clinical genomics and experts at analyzing genomic data will lead the clinic in identifying changes in the DNA linked to a patient’s disease, and ultimately help physicians learn more about the disease process and lead them to new therapies for their patients. In addition, HudsonAlpha offers a growing biotech hub to small companies and start-ups by providing access to outside experts, marketing direction and strategic networking opportunities. To learn more, visit smithfamilyclinic.org.
About HudsonAlpha: HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology is a nonprofit institute dedicated to innovating in the field of genomic technology and sciences across a spectrum of biological challenges. Founded in 2008, its mission is four-fold: sparking scientific discoveries that can impact human health and well-being; bringing genomic medicine into clinical care; fostering biotech entrepreneurship; and encouraging the creation of a genomics-literate workforce and society. The HudsonAlpha biotechnology campus consists of 152 acres nestled within Cummings Research Park, the nation’s second largest research park. Designed to be a hothouse of biotech economic development, HudsonAlpha’s state-of-the-art facilities co-locate nonprofit scientific researchers with entrepreneurs and educators. The relationships formed on the HudsonAlpha campus encourage collaborations that produce advances in medicine and agriculture. Under the leadership of Dr. Richard M. Myers, a key collaborator on the Human Genome Project, HudsonAlpha has become a national and international leader in genetics and genomics research and biotech education, and includes 29 diverse biotech companies on campus. To learn more about HudsonAlpha, visit: http://hudsonalpha.org/.
About the UAB School of Medicine: With more than 800 students and 1,200 faculty members, the School of Medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham is one of the premier academic medical centers in the United States. UAB is among the top schools in research funding from the National Institutes of Health and is routinely listed among the best in various national rankings. As the educational arm of UAB Medicine, students, residents and fellows train in a world-class setting; UAB Hospital’s 1,200 beds place it in among the largest hospitals in the country. Doctoral students in UAB’s Graduate Biomedical Sciences Program participate in interdisciplinary thematic programs that integrate more than 25 departments and 20 research centers across UAB. The UAB School of Medicine: knowledge that will change your world.
About Children’s of Alabama: Since 1911, Children’s of Alabama has provided specialized medical care for ill and injured children. Ranked among the best pediatric medical centers in the nation by US News & World Report, Children’s provides care for youngsters from every county in Alabama, 42 other states and 10 foreign countries last year, representing more than 653,000.
HudsonAlpha Media Contact:
Margetta Thomas, Communications Specialist