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Carlos Slim Center for Health Research at the Broad Institute

That same year, with the contribution of $65 million from the Carlos Slim Foundation, the center launched the inaugural phase of the Slim Initiative in Genomic Medicine for the Americas (SIGMA). In this 3-year phase, Broad scientists worked closely with Mexican colleagues from 17 academic and research institutions led by the Mexican National Institute of Genomic Medicine, to systematically identify genes underlying cancer, diabetes and kidney disease, and to build capacity in Mexico in genomic medicine. This initial collaboration yielded several notable outcomes:

  • In type 2 diabetes, scientists identified a common genetic variant predisposing Latin American populations to the disease. Because this genetic variant is absent in Europeans, it had been previously overlooked.
  • In cancer, researchers identified new genetic drivers of breast cancer (with special emphasis on patients in Mexico), head and neck cancer, lymphoma, sarcoma, cervical cancer, and several types of childhood cancers.
  • In kidney disease, scientists discovered the gene for medullary cystic kidney disease type 1 (MCKD1) — a rare disorder that ultimately requires dialysis or kidney transplantation.
  • In building scientific capacity, Mexican scientists collaborated with their Broad counterparts in a flourishing exchange of ideas, sharing access to advanced technology, and providing educational opportunities for researchers and students both at Broad and Mexico.

In 2013, in order to build on the project’s initial success, the Carlos Slim Center for Health Research launched the second phase of the collaboration, known as SIGMA II, with an additional contribution of $74.1 million over three years from the Carlos Slim Foundation.

SIGMA II will leverage the genetic discoveries from the first phase of the project, with a focus on translating these discoveries into clinical impact. This will include the development of diagnostic tools for breast cancer and diabetes, completing the genetic analysis of these diseases, creating therapeutic “roadmaps” to guide the development of new treatments, and the launching of a full-scale effort to target MCKD1. In addition, SIGMA II will continue to work on building scientific capacity in the US and Mexico.

In 2015 support from the Carlos Slim Foundation helped Broad Institute build the Type 2 Diabetes Genetics Knowledge Portal, developed by a team of scientists and software engineers at Broad, the University of Michigan, Oxford University, and other collaborators including the National Institutes of Health. The Portal is designed to help dramatically expand the number of researchers who can use human genetic data to study type 2 diabetes.