For the third consecutive year, UC San Francisco is co-sponsoring the Precision Medicine World Conference (PMWC) in January 2018 to share the latest in the rapidly evolving space.

Renamed from the Personalized Medicine World Conference, the annual forum attracts more than 1,000 recognized authorities and experts to speak about the latest findings across research, health care, data, pharma and biotechnology sectors. It draws an audience of more than 10,000 from across the world as a way to foster collaboration to expand the practice and realize the promise of precision medicine.

Precision Medicine World Conference

This year’s topics include advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning, big data, biomarker and companion diagnostics, cancer and rare disease diagnosis, clinical trials, clinical-decision support, drug discovery and digital health.

Advancing precision medicine is a priority at UCSF and is central to its advancing health worldwide mission. UCSF faculty lead numerous efforts at the local, state and national levels to use data-driven tools and analysis to develop new diagnostics, therapies and insights into disease. The goal is to make progress in both personal and population health.

Returning this year as a presenter at the conference is Atul Butte, MD, PhD, who is leading UCSF into a new era of computational science and medicine as director of UCSF’s Institute for Computational Health Sciences (ICHS). Butte anticipates that 2018 will see many exciting developments that push precision medicine into real-world advances to improve patient care.

Named the Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg Distinguished Professor at UCSF, Butte – a pediatrician and computer scientist – is overseeing a project to integrate electronic health records (EHRs) from all five medical centers in the UC Health system, which account for records of more than 15 million patients.

At academic medical centers like UCSF, EHRs are increasingly analyzed for insights on how to improve the quality of care and to better understand disease, such as diabetes.

Among other UCSF faculty who will be presenting at or participating in the PMWC are Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, MD, PhD, MAS; PhD, UCSF Vice Chancellor for Science Policy and Strategy, who helped propel precision medicine onto the national agenda.

Honors for Alan Ashworth and Elizabeth Blackburn

This year, UCSF will host an invitation-only opening night of PMWC with an awards reception honoring two highly accomplished scientists: Alan Ashworth, PhD, FRS, and Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD.

Alan Ashworth
Alan Ashworth, PhD, FRS

A translational biologist and laboratory scientist, Ashworth focuses his research on understanding breast cancer genetics to improve the care and treatment of patients. He is president of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center and senior vice president of Cancer Services for UCSF Health. Ashworth will receive the PMWC’s prestigious Pioneer Award for his role in helping discover the BRCA2 cancer susceptibility gene in 1995 and subsequently in working out a way to exploit genetic weaknesses in cancer cells leading to a new FDA-approved treatment approach. His work is a major paradigm in precision medicine.

Blackburn, a former UCSF faculty member, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2009 for her discovery of telomerase, an enzyme that plays a key role in normal cell function, as well as in cell aging and most cancers. The research sparked a whole field of inquiry into the possibility that telomerase could be reactivated to treat such age-related diseases as blindness, cardiovascular disease and neurodegenerative diseases, and deactivated to treat cancer, in which it generally is overactive.

After joining the faculty in 1990 and serving as chair of the microbiology and immunology department from 1993-1999, Blackburn left UCSF in 2016 to become president of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, one of the world’s leading scientific enterprises. She will be honored that evening with the PMWC’s distinguished Luminary Award.