Using the human genome to guide healthcare decisions

As our personalized medicine month continues, pharmaphorum’s Hannah Blake catches up with Michael Christman, President and CEO of Coriell Institute, who is currently working on the Coriell Personalized Medicine Collaborative (CPMC) research study.

The Coriell Institute for Medical Research was founded in 1953 and is based in Camden, New Jersey. It is an independent non-profit research center dedicated to the study of the human genome. Expert staff and pioneering programs in the fields of personalized medicine, cell biology, cytogenetics, genotyping, and biobanking drive the company’s mission.

During last year’s successful personalised medicine month, pharmaphorum interviewed Michael Christman from the Coriell Institute on the adoption of this new era of healthcare.

This year, we thought we’d find out what progress has been made at the Coriell Institute for Medical Research, and in particular the CPMC research study. This study is designed to understand the usefulness of personal genetic risk and pharmacogenomic information in health management and clinical decision-making. Over 7,500 research study participants are enrolled and have the ability to access personalized genetic risk results from this study.

pharmaphorum’s Hannah Blake caught up with Christman, who shared with us his thoughts on how personalized medicine has evolved in the past twelve months. He also tells us of the developments within this field that he’s most excited about.

Interview summary

HB: Can you tell us a little about the progress the Coriell Personalized Medicine Collaborative has made since we spoke with you last year?

MC: The CPMC research study continues to take tremendous strides. Since the United States Air Force recruited Coriell to form a unique cohort, we’ve enrolled more than 2,100 active-duty medical service personnel. The aspiration of this partnership was to align two organizations focused on optimizing the modern medical landscape by exploring the promise of personalized medicine, and we anticipate that the relationship will flourish moving forward.

“…we recognize the value of incorporating as much genetic information into a model as possible.”



We’ve also been working diligently to release multigenic health condition and drug risk reports to participants enrolled in the study, because we recognize the value of incorporating as much genetic information into a model as possible.

Ultimately, we feel very strongly that the data generated by the CPMC will be highly influential as we begin to migrate to a more precise system of health management.

HB: In what ways has personalized medicine evolved in the past twelve months? Have there been any new discoveries / developments in this field that you are excited about?

MC: It has been fascinating to see how the private sector – particularly the growing number of interpretation companies that have cropped up – has responded to the excitement around personalized medicine. Between the rapidly declining costs associated with genetic sequencing, the influx of interest and technological innovation in this area of the study, and a more clarified stance from the FDA – all indications are that personalized medicine is going to be a big business.


“Understanding how to evaluate a patient’s genome will unlock a window into a more comprehensive and individualized system of healthcare.”


HB: You were recently named as one of the most influential figures in the field of personalized medicine – what does this mean to you?

MC: Receiving that type of recognition is both humbling and rewarding. Coriell Institute is a world-class institution invested in the pursuit of important discoveries through cutting-edge science. I’ve surrounded myself with a fantastic team of experts in their respective fields, and we’ve been able to make a huge impact even though we’re a fairly small organization.

HB: One of the biggest challenges facing personalized medicine and genomics is bridging the gap between research and treatment. In your opinion, how can this best be overcome?

MC: There just isn’t enough research money available to identify and validate every association between a genetic variant and a health outcome, which is why there’s a necessity for observational studies like the CPMC. Genetic sequencing yields vast datasets that can’t possibly be brought to the clinical trial stage, so it’s the studies that will be instrumental in moving these developments into practice.

HB: How can you use a patient’s genetic information in the real world?

MC: Understanding how to evaluate a patient’s genome will unlock a window into a more comprehensive and individualized system of healthcare. For instance, I think we’re only talking about a matter of time before newborns have their genetic sequence completed at birth. But what’s most imperative is that the patient’s genetic data can be simply attained and readily digested by a consulting physician. Unfortunately, there are still barriers that get in the way: who stores the information? How do we determine what information carries a clinical application? How do we deliver the data back to the doctor so that it can be interpreted and implemented? We’ll have to address these concerns before any methodology can be streamlined.


“What’s most imperative is that the patient’s genetic data can be simply attained and readily digested by a consulting physician.”



HB: What impact will the advancement of genomics and personalized medicine have on patients in the future?

MC: The impact can only be greater the more we uncover and learn. We’re already seeing the reach of personalized medicine impact the lives of regular patients – labels are changing on prescription drugs to reflect genetic conflicts, doctors are becoming more aware of the importance of using a patient’s genetic information during dosing. And then of course there’s the boundless potential tied up in this science that will materialize as interpretation services become more accurate and affordable. These factors make for a very encouraging outlook.

HB: Thank you for your time.



About the interviewee:

Michael Christman, PhD, is the president and chief executive officer of Coriell Institute for Medical Research. After arriving at the Institute in 2007, Dr. Christman established the Coriell Personalized Medicine Collaborative (CPMC), a forward-looking research study that has put Coriell at the forefront of genome-informed medicine. The CPMC project involves more than 7,500 participants and numerous academic collaborators, such as the University of Pennsylvania, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Boston University, Stanford University, Ohio State University, and the United States Air Force. The study’s truly collaborative team of physicians, scientists, ethicists, genetic counselors, pharmacists, information technology experts, and volunteer study participants, recognize the promise of personalized medicine and seek to guide its ethical, legal and responsible implementation.

Before assuming the leadership role at Coriell in 2007, Dr. Christman chaired the Department of Genetics and Genomics at Boston University School of Medicine and led an international group that performed the first genome-wide association study using the Framingham Heart Study Cohort. Additionally, Dr. Christman and other Coriell scientists collaborated with Dr. Charles Rotimi of the NIH to complete one of the first genome-wide association studies of an African American cohort.

What’s next for genomics and personalized medicine?