International partnership between top clinical and academic institutions provides a potential precision medicine care model for other US hospitals to follow
Israel is about to get its first precision medicine clinic. Hospital CEOs in the United States will find it notable that Harvard Medical School is one of the principal collaborators in this project. This new clinical program is expected to result in improved diagnoses and treatment of rare, difficult-to-diagnose conditions, ultimately leading to wider availability of clinically-applicable precision medicine practices.
“Under the agreement, Clalit will set up Israel’s first precision medicine clinic dedicated to identifying tailored therapies for patients in whom no standard treatment has proven effective. The clinic will also work to untangle medical mysteries in patients with undiagnosed diseases—an approach modeled after the US Undiagnosed Diseases Network, for which Harvard Medical School is a national coordinating center,” noted the HMS press release. The HMS center is led by Isaac Kohane, MD, PhD, one of the joint leaders of the project and Chair of the Department of Biomedical Informatics in the Blavatnik Institute at HMS.
“The many synergies of this collaboration will allow us to realize the vision of precision medicine and move towards a future of predictive medicine, where the power to anticipate medical risk can prevent people from getting sick in the first place,” said Ben Reis, PhD (above), Director of the Predictive Medicine Group at the Boston Children’s Hospital Computational Health Informatics Program, and affiliate faculty member in the Department of Biomedical Informatics at Harvard Medical School, in the Harvard press release. “The Berkowitzs’ generous gift creates profound opportunities both for Harvard and our partners at Clalit. We look forward to realizing the enormous potential of this transformational opportunity for the benefit of patients worldwide,” said Reis. Such capabilities will be a boon for oncologists and cancer therapeutics developers. (Photo copyright: Harvard Medical School)
Creates Two Distinct Entities
The Ivan and Francesca Berkowitz Family Living Laboratory Collaboration at Harvard Medical School and Clalit Research Institute will be made possible through a financial donation of an undisclosed amount from the Berkowitz family. This undertaking will establish two distinct entities:
• The Ivan and Francesca Berkowitz Family Living Laboratory at Harvard Medical School
• The Ivan and Francesca Berkowitz Family Precision Medicine Clinic at Clalit
Clalit Research Institute, part of Israel’s largest medical and health insurance provider, will be the Israeli arm of this undertaking and the provider of the new precision medicine clinic. Based in Tel Aviv, Clalit boasts 4.7 million members and has a long history of providing world-class clinical care delivered by some of Israel’s top scientists and clinicians.
While Clalit’s area of this initiative focuses on providing precision medicine care, both Clalit and Harvard will participate in joint personalized medicine research projects designed to advance the field. Much of this research will focus on conditions that are difficult to diagnose, hard to treat, or rare.
“This work, powered by the passion and vision of the Berkowitz family, is an example of cross-pollination across countries, across institutions, and across disciplines,” said George Q. Daley, MD, PhD, Dean of Harvard Medical School, in the HMS press release. “The scientific and educational paths forged by this collaboration and the medical insights enabled by these efforts will ripple beyond borders and across generations.”
Providing the Right Care to the Right Patient at the Right Time
This new project has two distinct characteristics that could ultimately contribute to its success: philanthropy and international collaboration.
The philanthropic nature of this venture highlights the benefits that influential individuals can provide in the field of precision medicine. “The ideal of precision medicine is not new. Providing the right care to the right patient at the right time has tantalized and bedeviled physicians for many decades, perhaps centuries,” said Isaac Kohane, MD, PhD, one of the joint leaders of the project and Chair of the Department of Biomedical Informatics in the Blavatnik Institute at HMS, in the HMS press release. “This ideal is now being brought closer to reality through visionary philanthropy that will fuel research and education at our two institutions and magnify each of their strengths.”
The Berkowitz family expressed their view on how important philanthropy in precision medicine is. “It is our hope that through this effort, we can harness the strength of both Harvard Medical School and Clalit in a way that will allow this collaboration to produce enormous benefits to both health and medical care globally,” said Ivan Berkowitz, PhD, Chairman of Great Court Capital LLC, in the HMS press release. “We are very happy to be one leg of this three-legged stool—the technology and medicine, the healthcare system and, ultimately, the philanthropy, which makes it all happen.”
‘Greater than the Sum of Its Parts’
While the philanthropic backing of this project is one distinguishing feature of this groundbreaking personalized medicine program, another that will significantly contribute to its success and is more practical for many hospitals to consider, is its collaborative nature. The international partnership between Harvard and Clalit is expected to provide results that are “greater than the sum of its parts,” according to the HMS press release.
The benefits of this project will undoubtably improve Clalit’s ability to provide precision medicine care; however, Eli Cohen, acting CEO of Clalit Health Services believes it ultimately will have a broader impact. “A synergy exists between the aspiration for innovative insights and the desire to improve clinical care,” said Cohen in the HMS press release. “The new initiative driven by the foresight of the Berkowitz family will achieve both aims in full alignment with Clalit’s strategy to allow every patient personalized effective care, while achieving a profound effect on science and clinical care globally.”
Hospital and health system administrators can learn from the model established by the Berkowitz family’s donation. Partnering with an academic institution and leveraging international healthcare partnerships can be a robust strategy for simultaneously improving research while providing cutting-edge precision medicine clinical care to patients that improves outcomes and contributes to lowering the overall cost of care.