SUNY Downstate Launches the Institute for Genomic Health

Feb 22, 2016

Program to Engage the Brooklyn Community in Better Understanding the Genomic Factors of Illness and Well-Being


Brooklyn, NY – SUNY Downstate Medical Center announced today that it has established an Institute for Genomic Health (IGH). The Institute is dedicated to exploring the role of genomic factors in risk and resilience to illness, under the leadership of Michele T. Pato, MD, professor of psychiatry, and Carlos N. Pato, MD, dean of the College of Medicine.

John F. Williams, Jr., MD, EdD, MPH, FCCM, president of SUNY Downstate, said, “Great strides have been made over recent years in understanding the role that genes play in determining health, but it is critical that such research includes diverse community representation if we are ever to solve the problem of disparities in healthcare delivery. I am confident that the Institute for Genomic Health will go a long way towards addressing this pressing issue.”

Institute Director Dr. Michele Pato said, “I look forward to collaborating with SUNY Downstate colleges, departments, clinicians, and researchers, as well as community leaders and lay people, to further the mission of the Institute. We want to improve the health and well-being of all people by focusing on the genetic-based risk of illness, but we also want to explore what genes and a person’s environment do to keep us healthy.”

Research by the Drs. Pato over the past 30 years has focused on genomic psychiatry with an emphasis on population-based genetic studies. They have sought to identify genetic and environmental factors that contribute to neuropsychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder. 

As one of its major efforts, the Institute for Genomic Health is launching Genomic Psychiatry Cohort research at SUNY Downstate. The Genomic Psychiatry Cohort, a database of approximately 40,000 individuals, was designed to provide the necessary population-based sample for large-scale genomic studies.

“A well-recognized limitation of current genomic research is the lack of adequate sample sizes,” noted Dr. Michele Pato. “The Genomic Psychiatry Cohort aims to deal with this challenge.”

She continued, “In his 2015 State of the Union address, President Obama announced the Precision Medicine Initiative, which seeks to take into account individual differences in peoples’ genetic makeup, among other unique characteristics. The Institute for Genomic Health is committed to supporting this innovative approach to medicine.”
Downstate’s Institute for Genomic Health extends research formerly conducted by the Pato’s at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, with which they continue to collaborate. The new research at Downstate will engage the Brooklyn community in ongoing efforts to better understand medical disorders and how to effectively treat them.



About SUNY Downstate Medical Center

SUNY Downstate Medical Center, founded in 1860, was the first medical school in the United States to bring teaching out of the lecture hall and to the patient’s bedside. A center of innovation and excellence in research and clinical service delivery, SUNY Downstate Medical Center comprises a College of Medicine, College of Nursing, School of Health Professions, a School of Graduate Studies, School of Public Health, University Hospital of Brooklyn, and a multifaceted biotechnology initiative including the Downstate Biotechnology Incubator and BioBAT for early-stage and more mature companies, respectively.

SUNY Downstate ranks twelfth nationally in the number of alumni who are on the faculty of American medical schools. More physicians practicing in New York City have graduated from SUNY Downstate than from any other medical school.