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Sanford names vice president of research

Dr. Jim E. Mitchell has been named a vice president of research and will direct the Fargo research center for Sanford Health. Mitchell, who will assume the post April 1, also will continue his work as president and scientific director of The Neur...

Dr. Jim E. Mitchell

Dr. Jim E. Mitchell has been named a vice president of research and will direct the Fargo research center for Sanford Health.

Mitchell, who will assume the post April 1, also will continue his work as president and scientific director of The Neuropsychiatric Research Institute in Fargo.

He will oversee a research program in Fargo that is expected to include a staff of 12 to 24 in a center at the North Dakota State University Research and Technology Park.

Also, Mitchell will help set the center's research priorities. His own research focus has involved obesity, appetite control, weight-control surgery and smoking cessation.

"He'll help us refine the focus," said Dave Link, senior executive vice president of Sanford Health. Sanford's leading research programs include the goal of curing childhood diabetes and, in a recently announced initiative, breast cancer.

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The announcement was made Monday, when Sanford Health conducted a discussion in Moorhead about the potential of genetic medicine keynoted by Dr. Max Muenke, chief of the medical genetics branch of the National Human Genome Research Institute.

In time, advances in technology that are bringing down the cost of genetic sequencing mean that physicians will have valuable tools to better tailor therapies for patients, Muenke said.

Already, genetic research is helping to guide treatments of certain cancers. Current research, including some of Muenke's own work, holds promise for areas including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and developmental delays.

Although the promise of genetic medicine has at times been "hyped," Muenke said the potential is real, with clinical applications to evolve over the next five, 10 and 20 years.

A major example of the benefit to patients will be the ability to test a patient to determine, in advance, which drugs would be most effective in treating a disease, eliminating costly delays from "trial and error" experimentation to find the therapy that works best, Muenke said.

"I would predict in 20 years all medicine is going to be informed by genetic medicine," he said.

Hurdles to overcome include the cost of DNA sequencing for patients, and then to have the ability to analyze large numbers of test results to guide therapies.

Muenke's presentation to an audience of medical and biotechnology specialists is part of Sanford's ongoing effort to bring in recognized experts to talk about promising medical research areas, Link said.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522

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