Rita R. Colwell is a Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland and at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. Colwell’s research interests are focused on global infectious diseases, water and health. She is currently developing an international network to address emerging infectious diseases and water issues, including safe drinking water for both the developed and developing world. Colwell served as the 11th director of the National Science Foundation from 1998 to 2004. Read her full bio.

Interview with Rita R. Colwell from University of Maryland College Park and John Hopkins School of Public Health

Q: What research are you or your lab focusing on and why, and what problem(s) are you trying to solve?

A: The research that I am focusing on is understanding the microbiome of the human system and the environment, which means understanding the gut flora and its relationship to health and disease. However the work also includes understanding the microbiome of water and soil and the environment in general, as a system. We have done extensive work, in collaboration with Orange County, California Water District, analyzing reuse of water for human consumption and it has proved exciting and important in terms of public health. The problems we are trying to solve is just how the components of the microbial communities that comprise the natural flora of the intestine, skin, and lungs and the differences in their flora associated with cancer and infectious diseases, to understand the microbial communities comprising wellness and dysfunction.

Q: What makes your research unique? Can you share with us some recent findings?

A: The work we are doing is truly unique in that we have been able to develop the capacity, employing informatics, to determine species and strain identification of all bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites comprising the total microbial microbiome and its ecosystem. This is done rapidly and accurately, with output that actionable. Some of our recent findings have discerned differences between the normal gut flora and that of individuals suffering from celiac disease, work done in collaboration with Dr. Alessio Fasano at Harvard University and his team. We have also been able to determine the microbiome of drinking water in collaboration with Menu Leddy and her group at Orange County Water District in California. California has established an effective system of water re-use and we have been able to confirm its safety, using our NGS/bioinformatics system.

Q: What excites you about your work?

A: The work we are doing is at the cutting edge of microbial sciences. Having spent my entire career doing research on microbial systematics and evolution, with initial studies on marine bacteria, my current research is focused on bacterial agent of cholera, Vibrio cholerae. It is truly exciting to be able to determine relationships of microorganisms and their capacity to function in a versatile way as Vibrio cholerae does. For example, it is able to laterally transfer and share approximately 80% of its genes, which makes the organism a very important native inhabitant of the aquatic environment, but also a highly potentially lethal disease agent.

Q: When thinking about your research and the field you are working in, what are some recent breakthroughs that are propelling the field forward and how will they impact healthcare?

A: The most exciting developments, in my opinion, are those coming out of the combination of technology and creativity. The ability to sequence DNA extracted from samples of all varieties and types and detect, identify, and characterize all the species and strains of all the microorganisms – bacteria, viruses, fungus and parasites in a given sample or specimen is truly remarkable and exciting. Parallel discoveries being made concern the ability to excise and transfer genes, and, most importantly, their functional and metabolic interactions. All of which is to say that understanding the most exquisite details of microbial life is the most exciting part of bioscience discoveries in the 21st century.

Q: What are the short-term challenges that your scientific field is facing?

A: One of the difficult short term challenges is the slowness with which next generation sequencing coupled with informatics is being approved for treating human disease. It would be an important step to have FDA approval of the bioinformatic/metagenomic approach to diagnosis of disease and for diagnostics in general. This is a short term challenge because the field of microbiology is moving so fast that standardization of procedures and processes are in progress. When approval is granted, tremendous advances will be made in rapidly diagnosing and accurately treating infectious diseases quickly and effectively.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to share with the PMWC audience?

A: This is a time of tremendous discovery, advances in technology applications in the life sciences and specifically these are being made in microbiology. One of my ambitions has long been to help achieve a modernization of microbiology and I think we are now succeeding. Identification, which was such a tedious process, is almost instantaneous. Of course the next big step is to link function to what we are able to do in detection, identification, and characterization of microorganisms. Metabolites and metabolomics pose challenges that are being studied intensely. I believe they will provide another great leap forward for those of us working in the fields of microbial systematics and evolution.

Interview with Daniel Chen from IGM Biosciences

Q: Checkpoint inhibitors, particularly with PD-L1/PD-1 targeting agents, have benefited a broad range of patients with cancer. How will we improve on this?

A: It’s true that PD-L1/PD-1 inhibitors have led to durable responses in a subset of patients, and survival benefit in many of the patients treated- either as monotherapy or combination.

Read More

Call from PMWC 2019 Silicon Valley Program Committee – We Must Accelerate and Deliver on the Promise of Precision Medicine

Precision medicine advancements are real as demonstrated by the high volume of molecular, “precise” drugs on the market, which are based on extensive molecular and translational understanding of the specific drug targets.

Read More

#AI Play in Patient Diagnosis? How Can We Prepare the Next Generation to Make Sense of Enormous Amounts of Health-related Data?

What role should artificial intelligence play in patient diagnosis? How can we best prepare the next generation to make sense of enormous amounts of health-related data? These were just a few of the questions explored at the 15th Precision Medicine World Conference held at Duke University September 24-25, 2018.

Read More

Interview with Daniella Beller, Manager, Maccabi Research Institute Biobank

Q: What makes the Maccabi Research Institute biobank unique?

A: To explain the uniqueness of the Maccabi Biobank (named “Tipa” in Hebrew which means “drop” or “just a little”), first you must know a little about Maccabi.

Read More

Why We Need Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) To Foster Drug Discovery

Investments in pharma R&D has substantially increased over the last decades. Yet there appears to be no clear correlation to the number of newly approved drugs. This fact is accompanied by ever-increasing healthcare costs, fueled by an aging population and the parallel rise in the chronic disease burden.

Read More

Precision Medicine: A Decade of Improving the Standard of Care

In January, PMWC will host its 2019 Silicon Valley event, the largest Precision Medicine conference in the world with over 2,500 attendees gathering at the Santa Clara Convention Center. We are humbled and honored to have reached this stage of growth and are looking forward to continuing our work with key stakeholders and decision makers across the industry to ever strengthen this forum for exchange of critical and timely topics, to move the field of precision medicine forward and to improve the Standard of Care.

Read More

Interview with David Hong from Karius

Q: What need is Karius addressing?

A: Physicians often have difficulty pinpointing the exact pathogen that is causing disease. Conventional diagnostics like blood cultures or PCR can have poor sensitivity due to pretreatment with antibiotics, the breadth of potential pathogens present, and the requirement for invasive procedures to access deep-seated infections.

Read More

Interview with Charles Jaffe, MD, PhD from HL7

Q: What need is HL7 addressing?

A: For more than three decades, HL7 has provided the platform to enable global health data interoperability. This is more important than ever, as the cost of healthcare has increased exponentially, and the complexity of clinical evidence has grown to an almost unmanageable state.

Read More

Interview with Eden Haverfield from Invitae

Q: What need is Invitae addressing?

A: Our mission is to bring comprehensive genetic information into mainstream medical practice to improve the quality of healthcare for billions of people. Invitae is uniquely positioned to answer some of life’s most serious and complex questions with the highest quality genetics and at an affordable price.

Read More

Call by Ralph Snyderman (Duke U.) for Big Changes to Get to the Next Level of Precision Medicine

Beyond next-generation gene sequencing and developing diagnostic tools and targeted therapies, theoverall approach to clinical care has to be re-envisioned to fulfill the promise of precision medicine. Care must move from sporadic treatment of episodic disease (a reactive mode) to predicting disease and then acting to prevent and mitigate it (a proactive mode).

Read More

Interview with William Hearl From Immunomic Therapeutics, Inc.

Q: What need is Immunomic Therapeutics, Inc. addressing?

A: Immunomic Therapeutics’ nucleic acid vaccines have the potential to utilize the body’s natural biochemistry to develop a broad immune response, including antibody production, cytokine release and critical immunological memory.

Read More

Interview with Ralph Snyderman from Duke University

Q: What are some of the critical contributions that academic institutions and medical centers are making to implement and accelerate precision medicine?

A: Over the past decade, the field of precision medicine has created technologies enabling far more personalized and effective health care delivery. Many of the most dramatic advances have come in the field of oncology but targeting care to the needs of the individual is rapidly achieving broader applications.

Read More

Interview with Catherine Reinis Lucey from UCSF

Q: What research are you or your lab focusing on and why, and what problem(s) are you trying to solve?

A: My work involves designing, implementing and studying innovations in medical education that allow our medical schools to fulfill our social contract to improve the health of our communities and reduce the suffering of our patients.

Read More

Interview with Gunnar Carlsson from Ayasdi

Q: What need is Ayasdi addressing?

A: Ayasdi is pioneering the application of artificial intelligence to value-based care by targeting two of the most complex problems in healthcare: population risk stratification and clinical variation management.

Read More

Interview with Nikole Kimes from Siolta Therapeutics

Q: What need is Siolta Therapeutics addressing?

A: Chronic diseases, including inflammatory diseases such as asthma, now represent the leading cause of mortality and morbidity worldwide.

Read More
Johns Hopkins
University Of Michigan

The Precision Medicine World Conference (PMWC), in its 16th installment, will take place in the Santa Clara Convention Center (Silicon Valley) on January 20-23, 2019. The program will traverse innovative technologies, thriving initiatives, and clinical case studies that enable the translation of precision medicine into direct improvements in health care. Conference attendees will have an opportunity to learn first-hand about the latest developments and advancements in precision medicine and cutting-edge new strategies and solutions that are changing how patients are treated.

Agenda highlights:

  • Five tracks will showcase sessions on the latest advancements in precision medicine which include, but are not limited to:
    • AI & Data Science Showcase
    • Clinical & Research Tools Showcase
    • Clinical Dx Showcase
    • Creating Clinical Value with Liquid Biopsy ctDNA, etc.
    • Digital Health/Health and Wellness
    • Digital Phenotyping
    • Diversity in Precision Medicine
    • Drug Development (PPPs)
    • Early Days of Life Sequencing
    • Emerging Technologies in PM
    • Emerging Therapeutic Showcase
    • FDA Efforts to Accelerate PM
    • Gene Editing
    • Genomic Profiling Showcase
    • Immunotherapy Sessions & Showcase
    • Implementation into Health Care Delivery
    • Large Scale Bio-data Resources to Support Drug Development (PPPs)
    • Microbial Profiling Showcase
    • Microbiome
    • Neoantigens
    • Next-Gen. Workforce of PM
    • Non-Clinical Services Showcase
    • Pharmacogenomics
    • Point-of Care Dx Platform
    • Precision Public Health
    • Rare Disease Diagnosis
    • Resilience
    • Robust Clinical Decision Support Tools
    • Wellness and Aging Showcase

Agenda highlights:

    • Five tracks will showcase sessions on the latest advancements in precision medicine which include, but are not limited to:
      • AI & Data Science Showcase
      • Clinical & Research Tools Showcase
      • Clinical Dx Showcase
      • Creating Clinical Value with Liquid Biopsy ctDNA, etc.
      • Digital Health/Health and Wellness
      • Digital Phenotyping
      • Diversity in Precision Medicine
      • Drug Development (PPPs)
      • Early Days of Life Sequencing
      • Emerging Technologies in PM
      • Emerging Therapeutic Showcase
      • FDA Efforts to Accelerate PM
      • Gene Editing / CRISPR
      • Genomic Profiling Showcase
      • Immunotherapy Sessions & Showcase
      • Implementation into Health Care Delivery
      • Large Scale Bio-data Resources to Support Drug Development (PPPs)
      • Microbial Profiling Showcase
      • Microbiome
      • Neoantigens
      • Next-Gen. Workforce of PM
      • Non-Clinical Services Showcase
      • Pharmacogenomics
      • Point-of Care Dx Platform
      • Precision Public Health
      • Rare Disease Diagnosis
      • Resilience
      • Robust Clinical Decision Support Tools
      • Wellness and Aging Showcase
  • Luminary and Pioneer Awards, honoring individuals who contributed, and continue to contribute, to the field of Precision Medicine
  • 2000+ multidisciplinary attendees, from across the entire spectrum of healthcare, representing different types of companies, technologies, and medical centers with leadership roles in precision medicine
Get Updates
Sign up for occasional updates on upcoming conferences, news, and other information.
We respect your privacy and will never share your email with anyone.
Something went wrong, please verify your input.
Thank you for signing up!
pmwc-newsletter-img

Don't Miss Important Precision Medicine Updates

PMWC is the most comprehensive precision medicine conference. To recieve the lastest news and updates from the field, subscribe to the newsletter here.

You have Successfully Subscribed!