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Cynthia Morton, PhD, recently began her two-year term as director of the BWH Biomedical Research Institute (BRI), which has made great strides in bringing researchers together since it formed in 2005.
“We know that, as researchers, our collective efforts are stronger than our individual efforts,” said Morton, who succeeds Thomas Kupper, MD. “I am thrilled to begin my tenure as director, and I look forward to building upon the impressive accomplishments of the BRI to date.” Morton, director, and Kupper, past director, are joined by Joseph Loscalzo, MD, PhD, co-director, Barbara Bierer, MD, senior vice president of Research, and Jacqueline Slavik, PhD, executive director, on the BRI’s Executive Committee.
One of Morton’s goals is to continue on the path toward personalized medicine. Three years ago, BWH became the first health care institution and employer in the nation to engage in an effort to use the Surgeon General’s “My Family Health Portrait” tool and received both NIH and BRI funding for the Family History Project (Visit brighamandwomens.org/FamilyHistory/Default.aspx to view the project report.)
Morton is hopeful that the Center for Human Genetics at the BRI this year will launch “OurGenes,” a project in which researchers will collect DNA, health information and environmental data from patients who choose to participate. “The vision of OurGenes is to enable both the prediction and the prevention of disease,” she said. “This project will really place us at the forefront of incorporating genetic information into optimized health care.”
The Center for Human Genetics is one of the BRI’s eight thematic research centers that enable scientists to develop collaborative research initiatives. Recently, the centers applied for funding from the BRI for such projects. “The process to secure funding was highly competitive, and awards are being given to three outstanding projects,” Morton said.
The BRI has established a Leadership Council, an external advisory board consisting of individuals who are both experts in and interested in supporting biomedical research. In addition, three new BWH colleagues were recently elected to serve three-year terms on the Research Oversight Committee, which governs the BRI. They are Janet Rich-Edwards, DSc, Steven Shea, PhD, and Sushrut Waikar, MD.
In her tenure, Morton hopes to raise the profile of research at BWH, especially to patients. “We want patients to know that often, not only is the person taking care of them a clinician, he or she is also performing cutting edge research to learn more about their disease,” she said. “We’re not only caring for them today, we’re learning how to better care for them in the future. At BWH, where we bring science to medicine, research is a fundamental part of care.”