What is a genome? How many genes are in the typical human cell? Why is genomic medicine important and how will it impact our future? These were a few of the questions that Dr. Paul Billings '70 posed to students, faculty and alumni on September 7th at the Keck Graduate Institute in Claremont, CA.
One of the most exciting developments taking place is with genotyping, or DNA sequencing. Dr. Billings gave an overview of earlier platforms used to analyze DNA: the Sanger method and Next Generation Sequencing. At Life Technologies, a biotech company based in Carlsbad, CA, Dr. Billings and his colleagues are soon to unveil a proton sequencing chip which will calculate the DNA sequencing in just 4 hours and at a much lower cost than previous methods! "The power and cost of this technology is outstripping what is happening in today's mobile industry."
The benefits of this work have already been seen in prenatal and newborn testing, and more recently tests have shown that a more personalized approach to medicine can yield positive results. "In the future, we could develop drugs to intervene in diseases," said Billings.
Paul Billings has had a distinguished career as a physician and researcher. He has been a founder or chief executive officer of companies involved in genetic and diagnostic medicine, including GeneSage, Omicia and CELLective Dx Corporation. Previously, he was senior vice president for corporate development at Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings (LabCorp). He has held academic appointments at some of the most prestigious universities in the United States, including Harvard Medical School, Stanford School of Medicine and the University of California, Berkeley, and has served as a physician at a number of medical centers throughout the country, including the University of California, San Francisco. He is the author of nearly 200 publications and books on genomic medicine. Dr. Billings holds an MD from Harvard Medical School and a PhD in immunology, also from Harvard University.
Many thanks to the Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Sciences (KGI) and President Sheldon Schuster for hosting us. KGI is a specialized graduate school in Claremont, California. It was founded in 1997 through a startup grant of $50 million from the W. M. Keck Foundation.