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Sen. Hatch Gets Update on Utah's Advances in Precision Medicine

Andrea Smardon
University of Utah Health Care CEO Vivian Lee, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and patient advocate Emily Scalley pose at the Eccles Institute of Human Genetics.

Senator Orrin Hatch was at the University of Utah today for a presentation on advances in genetics research and precision medicine. The event comes before Congress begins its budget negotiations.

Scientists at the University of Utah have identified dozens of genes responsible for breast cancer, colon cancer, cardiovascular defects, autism, and numerous rare diseases. Executive Director for the Utah Genome Project Lynn Jorde says they’re just beginning to translate genetic discoveries into patient-centered medical treatment.

“You know, this is at a time when we have such opportunities, there’s so many great things we can do, but we have to get the research funding to be able to do it,” Jorde says.

Earlier this year, President Obama announced a precision medicine initiative, including a 215 million dollar investment, with a 130 million dollar appropriation for the National Institutes of Health. Senator Orrin Hatch, a former medical defense lawyer and chair of the Senate Finance committee, agrees that it’s time to increase NIH funding.

“What we’ve got to do is get the federal budget under control, so that we can really support the agencies that deserve support like NIH, that could serve such a tremendous role in helping reduce the cost of healthcare and bring health to the public like never before,” Hatch says.  

Utahn Emily Scalley says this meeting gives her hope. She had some genetic testing done two years ago and found out that she and some members of her family have Lynch syndrome, which means she’s more susceptible to a wide range of cancers.

“You know, two years ago when we found out about this testing, there wasn’t as much hope,” Scalley says. “So it’s great to be part of this and find out what’s going on with these different companies and what Senator Hatch can hopefully bring back to Utah.”

Now Scalley says she gets regular cancer screenings, and she plans to have her five children tested for Lynch syndrome.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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