Xconomist of the Week: Five Questions for New York Life Sciences 2031 Panelist Eric Schadt

10/6/11Follow @arleneweintraub

Eric Schadt’s career as a scientist has been focused on unlocking genetic cues to common human diseases such as diabetes and obesity. He is the chief scientific officer of Pacific Biosciences, a Menlo Park, CA, company that develops gene-sequencing technologies. He recently joined Mount Sinai Medical Center as the director of the Institute for Genomics and Multiscale Biology—a wide-ranging effort to create disease models based on genetic data collected at Mount Sinai and other institutions.

On October 13, Schadt will lend his genomics and entrepreneurial expertise to Xconomy’s first public New York event: Life Sciences 2031. We’re excited about our diverse panel—which also includes Pfizer’s Barbara Dalton, Kadmon’s Sam Waksal, and OrbiMed’s Sam Isaly. We asked Schadt about his new role at Mount Sinai, as well as his views on personalized medicine, genomic research, and the future of life sciences in the Big Apple. Here’s an edited version of our e-mail exchange with Schadt.

Xconomy: What are your main priorities as the director of the Mount Sinai Institute for Genomics and Multiscale Biology?
Eric Schadt: The short-term priorities are to get the institute going, which involves very intense planning, recruiting, and infrastructure-building. The mission of the institute is to become the main data-interpretation hub at Mount Sinai, collaborating deeply with 12 disease-oriented institutes so that we can better understand how to diagnose and treat disease. To pull this off we need a multidisciplinary team, comprised of computer engineers and scientists, data modelers to build predictive models, data analysts to recognize patterns, and biological data miners and experimentalists to generate and validate hypotheses about common human diseases and drug response.

X: How is PacBio contributing to this effort?
ES: The partnership between PacBio and Mount Sinai relates to the development and applications of the single molecule real time (SMRT) sequencing technology to enable better diagnosis and treatment of disease. While Mount Sinai will use many different types of technologies, including next generation DNA sequencing technologies, there are a number of advantages SMRT sequencing provides in comprehensively characterizing genomic variation. For example, we have demonstrated a fast turnaround time, which can enable very rapid characterization of pathogens during active outbreaks.

X: Many of the panelists speaking at our Oct. 13 event, New York Life Sciences 2031, are big believers in the future of personalized medicine, but they say the regulatory uncertainties may impede its growth. Do you agree?
ES: I absolutely agree. I am already experiencing this in an amplified way in New York, which has very extensive regulatory rules on carrying out any kind of test, even in a hospital setting. I believe [personalized medicine] goes well beyond the development of companion diagnostics. It includes, for example, having the ability … Next Page »

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