The Carlos Slim Center for Health Research aims to bring the benefits of genomics-driven medicine to Latin America, gleaning new insights into diseases with relevance to the region.
Launched in partnership with the Carlos Slim Foundation, the center brings together researchers from the Broad Institute, the Carlos Slim Health Institute, other research institutions in Mexico, and elsewhere with a shared commitment to transform human health.
The Carlos Slim Center for Health Research has been working to bring the revolution in biomedicine to bear on public health in Latin America through the Slim Initiative in Genomic Medicine for the Americas (SIGMA)—a powerful research program created by an unprecedented partnership between the Carlos Slim Foundation and the Broad Institute.
SIGMA employs state-of-the-art genomic technologies to reveal the molecular underpinnings of diseases that have a major impact on Latin American populations: diabetes, cancer, and kidney disease. With this information, SIGMA researchers can eventually discover more effective diagnosis, treatment, and prevention strategies to improve the lives of people in the region.
Since its launch in 2010, SIGMA has enabled landmark discoveries in its three disease focus areas:
In type 2 diabetes, SIGMA scientists uncovered, in 2013, one of the most significant genetic risk factors for Mexicans with Native American ancestry: variants of the SLC16A11 gene, which increase the risk of type 2 diabetes by up to 20 percent. They have since delved deeper into the gene’s role in liver metabolism, launching drug screens to correct the effects of SLC16A11 risk variants.
In cancer, the SIGMA team identified hundreds of genetic mutations and vulnerabilities linked to adult and pediatric cancers. Armed with this, they identified several repurposing opportunities for existing drugs (developed for other conditions) and advanced more than 50 new drug leads and targets, paving the way for novel therapies.
In the field of kidney disease, SIGMA revolutionized our understanding of Mucin 1 kidney disease (MKD)—a rare disorder with no known cure that ultimately requires dialysis or kidney transplantation. SIGMA researchers not only elucidated the genetic mutation and mechanism causing the disease, but also rapidly advanced promising new therapeutic leads along a preclinical development pipeline. Additionally, they laid the groundwork for a gene therapy that could definitively cure this disease.
These critical findings are the outcome of years of work by SIGMA scientists. The initiative—which began as SIGMA 1—entered, in 2019, the most recent SIGMA 4 phase, which builds upon SIGMA’s successes in tackling MKD and redoubles efforts to develop effective treatments and cures for the disease.