Mexico-US collaboration launched

By Nicole Davis, Broad Communications, January 19th, 2010

Mexican business leader Carlos Slim Helú today announced the launch of a major research project in genomic medicine that will help accelerate progress in public health in Mexico and around the world. The project will be carried out by the Carlos Slim Institute of Health in partnership with the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and the National Institute for Genomic Medicine of the Mexican Secretariat of Health. The major goal is to understand the genomic basis of cancer in worldwide populations and of type 2 diabetes in Mexican and Latin American populations.

The project, called Slim Initiative for Genomic Medicine, will last three years and will receive US $65M in support from the Carlos Slim Institute of Health. It will leverage the Broad Institute’s expertise and capabilities in the most advanced technologies in genomic sequencing.

The project also involves the training of Mexican experts under the leadership of the National Institute of Genomic Medicine of the Mexican Secretariat of Health, the leading institution in genomic research in Latin America.

The findings of this research will help accelerate both the prevention of disease as well as the development of improved therapies in Mexico and beyond.

Referring to the importance of the project, Carlos Slim said, “I am convinced that only through genomics will we be able to face the costly burden of illnesses that strain the budgets of even the richest countries.”

“Carlos Slim is making a visionary commitment to public health in the Americas in two ways,” said Dr. Eric S. Lander, director and president of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. “First, in recognizing that progress in public health must be built on a foundation of scientific understanding of the genetic basis of disease. Second, in recognizing that deepening the scientific ties between the US and Mexico can have great benefits for both countries. We look forward to making common cause with our colleagues in Mexico.”

The research project will make use of new technologies for decoding or “sequencing” DNA, which have made it possible for researchers to study DNA more rapidly and at a lower cost than ever before. In cancer, the scientists will create catalogs of the genetic abnormalities (called “mutations”) that occur across different cancer types. Such knowledge aims to reveal key genetic weaknesses that can be exploited by new cancer therapies and to identify which patients are most likely to respond to specific cancer drugs.

In type 2 diabetes, the researchers will also assemble systematic descriptions of the genetic factors underlying the disease, with a special focus on Latin American populations. Diabetes is among the most common inherited diseases in Latin America, yet a deep knowledge of the genetic risk factors in the region’s populations is lacking. A profound understanding of these factors is needed in order to foster prevention, treatment, and control.

During the three years of the project, major findings will be publicly announced. In order to guarantee that the project benefits science and the population in general, the main recipient of its findings will be the National Institute for Genomic Medicine.

To supervise the scientific progress of the project a Scientific Advisory Board has been established. It is composed of renowned scientists from around the world with vast experience in the fields of cancer, diabetes, and genomic science.

The Scientific Advisory Board members include (in alphabetical order):

Carlos Bustamante
Professor, Department of Genetics, Stanford School of Medicine

Thomas Hudson
President and Scientific Director of Ontario’s Institute for Cancer Research

Gerardo Jiménez Sánchez
Professor of genomic medicine at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, Advisor to the OECD’s Working Group on Biotechnology and Scientific Director of BioFields

David Nathan
Director of the Center of Diabetes and Director of the Center for General Clinical Research, Massachusetts General Hospital

Guillermo Ruiz Palacios
Head of the Infection Diseases Department of the Salvador Zuribán National Institute of Medical Sciences and Nutrition, Mexican Secretariat of Health

Xavier Soberón
General Director of the National Institute of Genomic Medicine, Mexican Secretariat of Health


About the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard
The Eli and Edythe L. Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard was founded in 2003 to empower this generation of creative scientists to transform medicine with new genome-based knowledge. The Broad Institute seeks to describe all the molecular components of life and their connections; discover the molecular basis of major human diseases; develop effective new approaches to diagnostics and therapeutics; and disseminate discoveries, tools, methods, and data openly to the entire scientific community.

Founded by MIT, Harvard and its affiliated hospitals, and the visionary Los Angeles philanthropists Eli and Edythe L. Broad, the Broad Institute includes faculty, professional staff, and students from throughout the MIT and Harvard biomedical research communities and beyond, with collaborations spanning over a hundred private and public institutions in more than 40 countries worldwide. For further information about the Broad Institute, go to www.broadinstitute.org.

About the Carlos Slim Health Institute
The Carlos Slim Health Institute was created in 2007 by the initiative of Mr. Carlos Slim Helú for the development and funding of programs aimed at contributing to the solution of the principal health problems in Latin America and the Caribbean under an innovative and human spirit and with a clear concern for the neediest populations.

The Institute contributes to cover the demand of services by spurring the creation of primary health care units; in a like manner, it facilitates the approximation of health resources to the population via communication technology that serves as information, accompaniment and contact means, and through leading-edge educational communication actions it also encourages people and populations to participate in their own welfare.

In addition to the above, the Institute also provides support to other not-for-profit organizations that promote people’s welfare by favoring their physical health, a proper household as well as natural and community environments.

Ultimately, the Institute encourages health knowledge through grants for students and professionals; awards for leading applied-sciences researchers and institutions, and through the generation of innovative and reliable information for national decision makers. The Carlos Slim Institute works day after day with a single goal: help people live longer and better.

About the National Institute of Genomic Medicine
The National Institute of Genomic Medicine (INMEGEN), is the eleventh National Institute of Health in Mexico, founded in 2004. INMEGEN´s mission is to contribute to the health care of the Mexican population by developing cutting-edge scientific research and well-trained human resources in order to apply the knowledge of genomic medicine through innovation, state-of-the-art technology, and strategic partnerships, all the while complying with universal ethical principles.

INMEGEN´s main research areas focus on principal complex diseases in Mexico, including population genomics of Mexican population, genomics of metabolic diseases (diabetes mellitus and obesity), cancer, infectious diseases, cardiovascular diseases, nutrigenomics, and pharmacogenomics.

One of the features of INMEGEN’s innovative culture is scientific research and development of technology, which leads to goods and services that can then be used to contribute to better health care for the Mexican people in the knowledge-based economy.