Coriell Personalized Medicine Collaborative Founder Dies

How Michael Christman, PhD, left his mark on genomics and so much more.

Precision medicine lost a respected and accomplished veteran over the holidays.

Michael Christman, PhD, the longtime president and CEO of the Coriell Institute for Medical Research, died on Christmas, at age 58. For 10 years, he oversaw cutting-edge healthcare projects at the New Jersey nonprofit research center, helming its biobank and launching the Coriell Personalized Medicine Collaborative.

“The importance of Dr. Christman’s impact not only on the Coriell Institute, but personalized medicine as a whole cannot be overstated,” Robert Kiep, chair of the organization’s board of trustees, said in a statement. “It was his initiative that got this project off the ground and his guidance that turned it into the unequivocal success that it is today. His death is a terrible loss for us all.”

A renowned genomics authority, Christman forged Coriell’s precision medicine arm to research how genomic data can best be used in the clinical setting. Thousands of participants have submitted DNA samples and medical and lifestyle information to the project, enabling researchers to determine their susceptibility to diseases and drugs, according to the institute. The collaborative’s work, which explored how participants acted when presented with their data and risks, has been featured in “numerous peer-reviewed publications.”

Christman also kept Coriell traditions alive, focusing on scientific education, internships for students, and more. Further, he co-founded the for-profit pharmacogenomics firm Coriell Life Sciences, of which he served as board chairman.

“Dr. Christman was a treasured colleague and trusted [adviser],” the institute wrote of its late leader. “His immeasurable contributions will continue to secure Coriell’s legacy as a leader in the fields of personalized medicine, stem cell research, and biobanking.”

Before coming to Coriell, he established Boston University’s genetics and genomics department. He also was a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, according to Coriell.

As an undergrad, Christman studied at the University of North Carolina, and then he earned his doctorate at the University of California, Berkeley, before spending 5 years as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, according to the announcement.

His father told Philly.com that Christman was visiting family in North Carolina when he passed. He is survived by his dad, twin children, and 2 brothers, and an ex-wife, according to the newspaper.