Fueling the Flames of Discovery, with Guest Blog by Lynn Jorde
Oct 4, 2016 10:00 AM
Marie-Claire King and Lynn Jorde
Executive Director of the Utah Genome Project (UGP), Dr. Jorde has influenced many of the revolutionary advances we’ve made here at University of Utah Health Sciences since he joined our faculty in 1979. He helped us identify genes and risk factors for more than 30 conditions, including breast and ovarian cancers, colon cancer and heart arrhythmia. He also was instrumental in creating the Utah Population Database—the largest of its kind—which allows us to match genealogical, public health and medical records to more than 8 million people.
We applaud Dr. Jorde for his additional work in large-scale sequencing, including becoming the first to sequence the genomes of an entire human family—which happens to be his own—to identify Miller’s syndrome. As a result of discoveries like these, genetic testing can be used to help prospective parents understand the likelihood of their condition passing to their children. New drugs and therapies can be developed. And diagnostic tests can identify those at risk for disease, leading to early screening and prevention.
But there’s more to Dr. Jorde than his C.V. could ever show. A respected mentor and friend to both students and colleagues, Dr. Jorde is known for letting students follow their unique research interests, extending a guiding hand when needed. A revered writer, he is frequently sought after for his careful advice in helping others improve their own literary works. And, he’s endeared himself as a caring teacher who can strike up a conversation with anyone, and who quickly gets to know each medical student by name.
Because he values relationships so deeply, Dr. Jorde knows that his own happiness, and the fulfillment of his students and colleagues, comes from striking the right balance between work, life and play. An avid skier, he’s been known to shut down the lab so his team can hit the slopes.
It has been incredible to watch Dr. Jorde build a worldwide reputation as a human geneticist. His leadership in the Human Genome Project has helped our institution move to the forefront of human genetics worldwide, and has taken us one step closer to advancing a new era of precision medicine and population health.
Our heartfelt thanks go to Mark and Kathie Miller, who funded the endowed chair, which helps us build on our academic advances, and provide mentors like Dr. Jorde to our medical students.
William Blake once said, “Great things are done when men and mountains meet.” The mountains in health care form more rapidly than we can ever imagine. But with scientists like Dr. Jorde, and supporters like Mark and Kathie Miller, we can meet these mountains, and claim a victory for health care with each pinnacle we reach.
We recently hosted Mary-Claire King as the keynote speaker for the Benning Society Public Lecture. Dr. Jorde wrote the following guest blog about King’s talk.
Guest Blog by Lynn Jorde:
Mary-Claire King, Ph.D., presented this year’s Benning Society Public Lecture, “Genomic Analysis of Inherited Breast and Ovarian Cancer: From Gene Discovery to Precision Medicine and Public Health.” King is an American Cancer Society Professor in the University of Washington’s Departments of Medicine and Genome Sciences and has been a leader in human genetics research for more than four decades.
By studying a large series of families with multiple cases of breast and ovarian cancer, she identified the location of the BRCA1 gene, a major cause of inherited cancer. This discovery — along with research at the University of Utah and Myriad Genetics, Inc. — enabled early detection and prevention of breast and ovarian cancer, saving thousands of lives. In recognition of her groundbreaking research, King was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, and earlier this year, she received the National Medal of Science from President Barack Obama.
In her Benning lecture, King emphasized the usefulness of large families in genetic research. She noted that rapid advances in genetic technology have caused dramatic decreases in the cost of DNA sequencing and genetic testing. Consequently, King believes the time has come to screen all women for breast cancer-causing DNA variants at approximately 30 years of age. In the United States alone, between 250,000 and 400,000 women who carry breast cancer mutations would be identified under such a protocol.
“Every breast cancer patient we identify after she develops cancer clearly represents a missed opportunity for prevention,” King said in a recent address to the American Cancer Society. King’s Benning lecture, and her celebrated career, demonstrate compellingly that gene discovery and genetic testing are vital components of precision medicine and improved public health.
Lynn B. Jorde, Ph.D.
Guest blogger Lynn B. Jorde. Ph.D., is Chair of the Department of Human Genetics. Dr. Jorde’s laboratory has been involved in studies of human genetic variation, mobile element evolution, the genetic basis of human limb malformations, and the genetics of common diseases such as hypertension, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease. As executive director of the Utah Genome Project, Dr. Jorde plays a critical role in advancing a new era of precision medicine and population health.