12.11.2014 - 09:30

An outstanding lecture of Dr. Leroy Hood opened a new Academic Medical Center Helsinki Distinguished Lecture Series

The Academic Medical Center Helsinki (AMCH) Distinguished Lecture Series was launched yesterday November 11 by an excellent presentation of Dr. Leroy Hood. The purpose of this new lecture series is to bring internationally leading experts to speak to the AMCH community on timely topics and opportunities in medical research.

Dr. Hood’s outstanding contributions have had a resounding effect on the advancement of life science since the 1960s. He brought engineering to biology by being involved in the development of several instruments critical for high-throughput biology, such as automated DNA sequencers and peptide synthesizers. Thus he opened the door to the era of big data in medicine. He has published 750 papers and been one of the key persons behind the Human Genome Project. He is one of only 15 individuals elected to all three National Academies—the National Academy of Science, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. In 2000, Dr. Hood co-founded the world’s first institute concentrating on cross-disciplinary systems medicine, Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle and has pioneered the field since then. He has also founded or co-founded 15 different biotechnology companies

Dr. Leroy Hood was invited to Helsinki by Prof. Olli Kallioniemi, the Director of the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland, FIMM. Before the lecture, the Dean of the Medical Faculty, Prof. Risto Renkonen introduced the new lecture series and the Rector of the University of Helsinki, Jukka Kola, presented the lecture award diploma to Dr. Hood. This first award lecture was sponsored by the Biomedicum Helsinki Lecture Series, Digital Health Revolution strategic research initiative (Tekes) and by FIMM.

In his lecture, Dr. Hood opened up the significance of P4 medicine – 4 Ps meaning predictive, preventive, personalised and participatory. He gave several interesting examples of the ways the P4 medicine is transforming healthcare in the near future. An especially ambitious example is his project on 100.000 well individuals, a so-called system wellness study, where P4 medicine is brought to the contemporary healthcare system. Thus far a pilot project on 100 individuals has been completed and during the years to come the next 1.000 and then 100.000 people will be studied longitudinally. Their genome sequence is analyzed at start and then every 3 months data from their clinical biomarkers, nutritional status, microbiome analysis, and Quantified self sensor technology is collected. The data will be provided back to the participants, and life coaches will help to create individualistic interventions in their health habits.

Dr. Hood told that a lot was learned already based on the data of the first 100 pioneer participants of this study. It became very clear that all of them had some kind of actionable items that could be used to improve their health. For example, some otherwise healthy people had high mercury levels due to their diet or low D-vitamin levels due to genetic factors and a few cases of hemochromatosis (blood iron overload) were detected.

-What we aim to do is to develop ways to quantify wellness and demystify disease, explained Dr. Hood.

-This can only be achieved when we focus on individuals and on wellness. The ultimate aim of our projects is to be able to detect biomarkers for wellness and the early mechanisms and biomarkers of disease, which can be acted upon before the onset of clinical disease, and hence help to push people back to wellness when it is still possible.

The take-home message Dr. Hood wanted to share with the AMCH community is the same as what the pioneer participants of the project have learned:

-Your genome determines your potential, the dimensions of your individual wellness, but not your destiny. You can control your own health, and science will facilitate to do this in an individualistic way.


Text: Mari Kaunisto, Photos: Jouko Siro

Last updated: 12.11.2014 - 11:53