Geisinger Announces National Precision Health Initiative

Ryan Black

“I know of no other health system with such dedication to putting patients and their health first," the new Initiative's director said.

Looking to create new partnerships and provide increased exposure to its model of genomic innovation, Geisinger Health System today announced the launch of a new National Precision Health Initiative. Huntington F. Willard, PhD, was named as its inaugural director.

Willard (pictured left, courtesy of Geisinger) previously served as President of the American Society of Human Genetics, and he was the founding director of the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy. He was also co-editor of Genomic & Precision Medicine, considered the first published precision medicine textbook.

“I know of no other health system with such dedication to putting patients and their health first," Willard said of Geisinger. "I look forward to launching new programs committed to broadening Geisinger's impact in precision health on a national scale."

The Danville, Pennsylvania-based health system will place its new genomics Initiative in the Washington, DC, area in hopes of raising its profile. Geisinger’s existing MyCode Community Health Initiative will be one of the new program’s centerpieces.

The MyCode biobank already includes genetic and exome testing information on over 160,000 patient-participants. “We also have permission to look at their medical records, and we’re using those two sides together to potentially develop better understandings of diseases and their cures,” Geisinger’s W. Andrew Faucett, MS, explained to Healthcare Analytics News in a previous interview.

“We are already seeing this benefit to our patients in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and are eager to extend this program nationally," Geisinger president and CEO David T. Feinberg, MD, said in a statement. "The addition of Hunt Willard to our already outstanding genomics and precision health team at Geisinger allows us to 'double-down' on our bet on this game-changing approach to anticipatory medicine.”

Willard will launch a Precision Medicine Innovation Lab through the new Initiative, and will also serve as a professor of precision health and associate chief scientific officer at Geisinger beginning in January of 2018.