Leading Pediatric Neurogenetics Researcher Named as First Chair within Rady Pediatric Genomics Institute

Dr. Joseph Gleeson Will Build Program in Pediatric Neurogenetics

San Diego – July 20, 2015 Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego has identified its first-ever Endowed Chair within the Rady Pediatric Genomics and Systems Medicine Institute: pediatric neurogeneticist Dr. Joseph Gleeson.  Dr. Gleeson’s pioneering work will be supported by a $2.5 million endowment for neuroscience provided by Rady Children’s Hospital Auxiliary.

Dr. Gleeson will build an innovative program in neurogenetics that seeks to understand the genetic basis of diseases such as epilepsy, autism and mental disability and develop new treatments.  He comes to San Diego from New York City, where he was head of the Laboratory of Pediatric Brain Disease at The Rockefeller University and a scientific advisory board director at the New York Genome Center, a consortium of renowned academic, medical and industry leaders focused on translating genomic research into clinical solutions for serious disease.  Dr. Gleeson will maintain access to the world-class scientific resources and collaborators at both institutions.

“The recruitment of a scientist of Dr. Gleeson’s caliber represents a major step in our vision to pursue pediatric genomics research at the highest level,” said David Hale, Board Chair of Rady Pediatric Genomics and Systems Medicine Institute at Rady Children’s. “Dr. Gleeson fully supports our goal that one day every child who comes to Rady Children’s for care will have the benefits of genomic sequencing.”

Among his recent findings, Dr. Gleeson’s lab has identified approximately 200 new causes for neurodevelopmental diseases that are not yet published.

“We’re excited to use these findings as a platform to diagnose kids at Rady Children’s,” said Dr. Gleeson.  “We’ve already begun some pilot genome sequencing of patients at Rady Children’s neurology clinic and hope to find matches within that population for some of these newly identified genetic causes of disease.”

Another key initiative Dr. Gleeson is undertaking is searching for the genetic cause of intractable epilepsy in pediatric patients (epilepsy that does not respond to treatment with medication). Using samples of brain tissue obtained from a consortium of neurosurgeons around the world, Dr. Gleeson plans to sequence the part of the brain suspected of causing epilepsy with the goal of discovering the genetic origin.

Over the years, Dr. Gleeson’s lab has sequenced a defined population group of more than 3,000 patients, one of the largest groups in the world with recessive forms of neurodevelopmental disease. With this data, the lab has determined that some of these conditions previously thought untreatable have potential points of treatment.

“We are thrilled to welcome a true visionary in the field of Genomics research to lead our journey into the future of pediatric medicine,” said Dr. Donald Kearns, President and Chief Executive Officer at Rady Children’s.

Dr. Gleeson was previously a Professor at UC San Diego and a physician at Rady Children’s before moving his lab to Rockefeller.  Dr. Gleeson will also be a professor of Neurosciences and Pediatrics at UC San Diego (pending Committee on Academic Personnel [CAP] approval), and an Investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.  He will assume the role of Director of Neurodevelopmental Genetics in the Rady Pediatric Genomics and Systems Medicine Institute.

On March 4, 2015, Rady Children’s Hospital Auxiliary created the Endowment for Neuroscience, a pool of funds to help researchers and clinicians at the Rady Pediatric Genomics and Systems Medicine Institute translate research discoveries into improved patient care.  The Endowed Directorship created by this fund will support the work and vision of Dr. Gleeson.

Media Contact:
Ben Metcalf
(858) 966-8579
bmetcalf@rchsd.org

About Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego:

Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego is a 520-bed pediatric care facility providing the largest source of comprehensive pediatric medical services in San Diego, Southern Riverside and Imperial Counties. Rady Children’s is the only hospital in the San Diego area dedicated exclusively to pediatric healthcare and is the region’s only designated pediatric trauma center. In June 2015, U.S. News & World Report ranked Rady Children’s among the best children’s hospitals in the nation in all ten pediatric specialties the magazine surveyed.  For more information, visit www.rchsd.org and find us on Facebook, Twitter and Vimeo.