New Penn Neurodegeneration Genomics Center Forms National Hub for Alzheimers’ Disease Research


Newswise — PHILADELPHIA – Penn Medicine has established the Penn Neurodegeneration Genomics Center (PNGC) as a national focal point for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) genetics research. The Center, an interdisciplinary program that brings together faculty members in neurodegenerative disorders, human genetics, genomics, bioinformatics, and biostatistics, coordinates activities of the National Institute of Health’s AD Genetics Consortium, the Consortium for AD Sequence Analysis, the Coordinating Center for Genetics/Genomics of AD, and the National Institute on Aging (NIA) Genetics of AD Storage facility, all based at Penn and other sites.

Penn has received about $24 million over several years for its part in these national collaborations. These programs develop new patient cohorts, coordinate analysis, and disseminate data and findings on the genetics of Alzheimer’s disease. This collaborative effort drives the AD Sequencing Project, a White House/NIH initiative with over 150 scientists from 19 institutions nationwide to sequence the DNA of 15,000 individuals. PNGC also complements the overarching efforts of Penn’s Institute on Aging (Penn NIA) and Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research (CNDR).

PNGC is directed by Gerard Schellenberg, PhD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, and Li-San Wang PhD, an associate professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, both at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

“The Center will strengthen ties between multiple investigators working on not only Alzheimer’s disease, but also on the genetics of other neurodegenerative diseases,” Schellenberg said. “The Center will also interact with other campus investigators working with large-scale DNA sequence data sets to make Penn a national center for genomic-based disease research.”

“The PNGC coalesces all of these synergistic efforts to get at the root cause of Alzheimer’s disease,” Wang said.

The Center’s scientific mission covers two important aspects of AD research: first, to find new AD genes and second, translate these findings to identify new drug targets. The Center will recruit a team of interdisciplinary experts within and outside Penn for human genetics and neurodegeneration research. The center provides a home for this genomics research, resources such as data and information technology capabilities, expertise in “big data” and genomics technologies, and a platform for intellectual activities and education. “The establishment of the PNGC is both timely and important,” said John Trojanowski, MD, PhD, director of the Penn NIA. “Timely because of the new funding to harmonize the study of Alzheimer’s disease genomics among international partners, as well as new funding opportunities for research on Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias and important because of the growing surge in Alzheimer’s gene discovery that raises important new questions about disease mechanisms and treatment.”

Penn Medicine is one of the world's leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania(founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $5.3 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top five medical schools in the United States for the past 18 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $373 million awarded in the 2015 fiscal year.The University of Pennsylvania Health System's patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center -- which are recognized as one of the nation's top "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S. News & World Report -- Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Wissahickon Hospice; and Pennsylvania Hospital -- the nation's first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional affiliated inpatient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region include Chestnut Hill Hospital and Good Shepherd Penn Partners, a partnership between Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network and Penn Medicine.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2015, Penn Medicine provided $253.3 million to benefit our community.

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