On Nov. 17, BWH investigators and leaders from across industry and academia came together for Boston’s “Understand Your Genome” (UYG) conference, sponsored by BWH’s Division of Genetics. The all-day event included presentations and debates (and lots of tweets) from an engaged audience of approximately 40 participants, many of whom had had their genomes sequenced in advance of the event. Below are some of the highlights:
Boston’s UYG event is one in a series of conferences being organized by the genomic sequencing company Illumina and was the first to take place in New England. BWH’s Robert Green, MD, of the Division of Genetics, who was the conference’s director, told the audience that speakers would be presenting independent opinions, and that audience members should too.
The roster of speakers included many renowned names (and Twitter handles) from the field of genomics.
In the first session of the day, speakers offered an introduction to the basics of genetics and genomics. Nathaniel Pearson, PhD, of the New York Genome Center, introduced the speakers, including BWH’s Heidi Rehm, PhD, as “guides to help us walk through dilemmas” in genomics, likening them to the three fates in Greek mythology who spin, measure and read the thread of life.
Richard Maas, MD, PhD, chief of BWH’s Division of Genetics, and Christine Seidman, MD, director of BWH’s Cardiovascular Genetics Program, spoke in the next session about using sequencing information in the care of patients.
In the afternoon, Betsy Nabel, MD, president of BWHC, discussed the role of academic medical centers in the age of personalized medicine. Nabel covered both the cultural and medical implications of having access to one’s genetic information, as well as the importance of partnerships across industry and academia.
BWH’s Jeff Golden, chair of the Department of Pathology, discussed how precision medicine is being used at the hospital to improve patient care.
The conference culminated with a spirited debate on the proposition: “It is currently advisable to obtain exome or genome sequencing in healthy individuals.”
Having given its participants much to continue to discuss and debate, Boston’s first UYG event drew to a close.
Conference co-sponsors included Brigham Genome Medicine and the Precision Medicine Program and Department of Pathology at BWH, the Partners Personalized Medicine and Laboratory for Molecular Medicine, the Analytic and Translational Genetics Unit and the Department of Pathology at Massachusetts General Hospital, and the Broad Institute.