During the past 50 years, millions of lives have been impacted by research conducted by the Channing Division of Network Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. For example, researchers determined that consuming foods containing transfats increases risk of heart disease and death, leading to a federal law banning these fats from the U.S. food supply. Researchers also found links between certain hormones and breast cancer development and the benefits of aspirin in preventing colon cancer, among other discoveries.
“We’re extremely proud of the ways in which research in the Channing Division has helped shape medicine over time,” says Edwin Silverman, MD, PhD, chief of the division.
Silverman notes these investigations rely on government grants, which have limited capacity for growth in recent years. To overcome this challenge and expand the division’s impact, Edward Krapels and his wife, Sarah Emerson, have given $1 million to fuel the most promising projects—including those focused on precision medicine, which tailors therapies based on an individual’s unique genetic makeup.
“[Precision medicine’s evolution], together with technologies like gene therapy and whole-genome sequencing, is creating new paradigms that need to be supported.”—Edward Krapels
“There’s a lot happening in the Channing Division to develop therapies for many diseases, including orphan diseases,” says Krapels, a member of the division’s External Advisory Committee. “Part of precision medicine’s evolution includes mining health data stewarded by the division for more than 40 years. This resource, together with technologies like gene therapy and whole-genome sequencing, is creating new paradigms that need to be supported.”
One groundbreaking project involves seeking insights from expansive data collected from the division’s COPDGene study, one of the largest studies to investigate underlying genetic determinants of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Led by Silverman, the project’s next step is to use network analysis and artificial intelligence with extensive imaging, clinical, genetic, and other biological data to improve the accuracy of COPD diagnosis and prognosis.
“I’ve never been more excited about our work than I am at this point in my career,” Silverman says. “With current technologies, we can generate data we couldn’t have dreamed of before. Ed and Sarah’s wonderful generosity and leadership will allow us to leverage this new information to better understand the causes of complex diseases and to individualize treatments.”