Expanding partnerships bode well for South Carolinians see more
Greenwood Genetic Center (GGC) and The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC Health) have signed a letter of intent to expand their longtime collaboration to improve access to high-quality, coordinated and cost-effective genetic services and their recent affiliation to drive innovation in the genetics field. A definitive agreement and approval by both organizations’ boards is still required and anticipated by the end of the year.
The deeper relationship between GGC and MUSC Health presents opportunities to further improve access and enhance patient care, increase access to a broader range of educational opportunities for MUSC students, and position the organizations to take advantage of future strategic research initiatives. The two entities have worked together on clinical consultations, provider education, and research for more than a decade. According to MUSC, adding to the depth and breadth of the almost two-year old formal affiliation with the state’s most advanced and innovative genetic center was an easy choice.
“We are so pleased to continue aligning and innovating with this like-minded and advanced care provider for the benefit of the state’s citizens,” said James Lemon, D.M.D., chairman of the MUSC Board of Trustees. “We are excited for what the future holds as we move forward together.”
MUSC Board of Trustees vice-chairman and Greenwood resident, Charles Schulze, agreed. “I live in Greenwood, and I’ve said for years that a lot people don’t understand what an absolute gem GGC is. They’ve helped about 100,000 families across the state make incredibly important decisions, discovered difficult-to-diagnose conditions, and have been there for these families every step of the way.”
With recent and rapid growth in the understanding of how genetics impacts health throughout the lifespan, access to genetic information is increasingly important for individuals to make informed healthcare and lifestyle decisions. With a primary goal of improving access for patients and their families, this expanded relationship between GGC and MUSC aims to leverage both organizations’ strengths and expertise. Together they will provide high-quality care and access to the latest technological advances in diagnostics, research, and treatment. In the interest of better serving these needs, the expanded goals of the relationship include:
- Co-developing a strategic plan for genetic services.
- Continuing to increase access to clinical genetic services for MUSC patients and all South Carolinians.
- Building on collaborative telehealth platforms to improve wait times for appointments and consultations.
- Sharing critical resources and expertise where possible to lower costs.
- Pursuing additional workforce development, research, clinical trials and treatment collaborations.
- Advancing precision health and jointly serving as leaders in this innovative, dynamic area of health care.
Nearly every child in South Carolina who has been diagnosed with a genetic birth defect, developmental delay or other hereditary disorder has already benefited from GGC expertise, due to the center’s depth of care for children with rare conditions and commitment to new technologies and diagnostics. GGC, a nonprofit institute centered on research, clinical genetic services, diagnostic laboratory testing and educational programs and resources, is focused on compassionate patient care and innovative scientific advancement. This deepened relationship with MUSC will mean GGC can expand their purview to include additional adult genetics services to help serve patients with cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other conditions.
“The Greenwood Genetic Center places great importance on collaborations that improve the quality of care and benefit the patients and families we serve,” said Steve Skinner, MD, GGC Director. “Over the past two years, our affiliation with MUSC has expanded projects such as telemedicine that have had a significant and lasting impact on access to genetics care. With the further expansion of this relationship, GGC can have an even stronger impact on patient care through a connection to MUSC’s broad subspecialties network and clinical trial experience, while GGC can enhance MUSC’s ability to provide pediatric genetics care and state-of-the art clinical genetic testing. It’s a win-win for both institutions, but most importantly, this collaboration is a win for the people of South Carolina who need genetic care, information, and resources.”
David J. Cole, M.D., FACS, MUSC president, echoed the benefits of the affiliation offered by Skinner, adding, “Two years ago, we started to align the national caliber genetic expertise of GGC- with our outstanding academic medical faculty and specialty care providers,” he said. “It’s been making a real difference for our patients. We’re moving health care forward for all, bringing the best of both organizations so that we can create opportunities for more South Carolina citizens to understand, plan for and manage their health and wellness. By further connecting our work and accountability to each other, MUSC and GGC stand poised to deliver on precision health and even better patient care, research innovations and unique learning opportunities for our students.”
“The Greenwood Genetic Center and MUSC individually provide exceptional care to patients across South Carolina, each with their own unique areas of expertise,” said Dell Baker, chairman of the GGC Board of Directors. “By further combining our strengths and building upon the other’s needs, this expanded relationship between our organizations has South Carolina poised as a leader in providing the best and most advanced genomic medicine for its citizens.”
Greenwood Genetic Center project receives grant to expand access for genetics services see more
The Greenwood Genetic Center (GGC), through the Self Regional Healthcare Foundation, has been awarded a grant of $899,000 from The Duke Endowment for 'Genetics Access for All,' a project to expand access to genetics services for patients and providers.
"In this current era of genomic medicine, there is an increasing demand for clinical genetics services, but our workforce is insufficient to meet this demand, and our current work flows are inefficient," said Mike Lyons, MD, Director of Clinical Services at GGC and lead on the funded project. "This leads to families facing long waits to be evaluated and tested, and subsequent delays in managing and treating their child's condition."
GGC has provided clinical genetics services since 1974; however, with the increase in demand for services, and inability of genetics training programs to keep up with the ensuing workforce demand, patients often wait for six months or longer to be seen.
"This is not just a GGC issue. Genetics clinics around the country are facing wait times that are as long or longer than ours," said Steve Skinner, MD, GGC Director. "And we have found that as genomic technology has been evolving at such a rapid pace, many non-genetics providers do not feel comfortable ordering and interpreting genetic tests on their own."
'Genetics Access for All' proposes a new standard of genetics care by optimizing access for patients and employing a new system of communication to transform how non-genetics providers engage with genetics providers in order to better manage their patients.
In 2019, GGC and the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) signed an affiliation agreement with the goal of improving access to genetic services for patients across SC.
One initiative that has grown out of this affiliation is a pilot project with the MUSC Center for Telehealth to develop an electronic consult (e-consult) system for genetics referrals. The project initially offered the option only to a limited number of referring providers in the MUSC system. Funding from The Duke Endowment will allow that project to expand on a much larger scale.
During the first year of the funded project, GGC will implement e-consults through an online platform to allow non-genetics providers to upload patient information, and receive clinical impressions and testing recommendations within two business days. E-consults will help avoid unnecessary referrals, improve communication with non-genetic providers, and enhance efficiency by decreasing the amount of time needed for in-person and telemedicine visits.
In year two, GGC plans to expand the concept to provide electronic patient visits (e-visits) allowing patients to upload their information electronically and quickly receive clinical feedback and recommendations. The goal of e-visits is not to replace in-person or telegenetics visits, but to provide another care option that improves communication with and access for patients.
Lyons says that the ultimate goal of this project is to change the model of genetics care from a long diagnostic odyssey to a more efficient system that decreases unnecessary referrals, expedites diagnoses, and decreases wait times for appointments.
"Through e-consults, we'll be able to more quickly identify patients who need genetic testing and facilitate the appropriate testing," he said. "A rapid diagnosis will allow for more timely and precise management and treatment for all patients impacted by a genetic disorder."
GGC expects to see significant improvements in patient care as the project expands. "Our goals are to complete 50 outpatient and 25 inpatient e-consults and 25 e-visits per month by the end of the grant cycle," said Lyons. "We anticipate this project to dramatically improve wait times for all types of visits, and hope that our success can be translated into a new model for genetics care in clinics nationwide."
About Greenwood Genetic Center
The Greenwood Genetic Center (GGC), founded in 1974, is a nonprofit organization advancing the field of medical genetics and caring for families impacted by genetic disease and birth defects. At its home campus in Greenwood, South Carolina, a talented team of physicians and scientists provides clinical genetic services, diagnostic laboratory testing, educational programs and resources, and research in the field of medical genetics. GGC’s faculty and staff are committed to the goal of developing preventive and curative therapies for the individuals and families they serve. GGC extends its reach as a resource to all residents of South Carolina with satellite offices in Charleston, Columbia, Florence and Greenville. For more information about GGC please visit www.ggc.org.
About The Duke Endowment
Based in Charlotte and established in 1924 by industrialist and philanthropist James B. Duke, The Duke Endowment is a private foundation that strengthens communities in North Carolina and South Carolina by nurturing children, promoting health, educating minds and enriching spirits. Since its founding, it has distributed more than $4 billion in grants. The Endowment shares a name with Duke University and Duke Energy, but all are separate organizations.
Bill Tiller joins Greenwood Genetic Center Foundation see more
The Greenwood Genetic Center (GGC) has named William ‘Bill’ Tiller as the new Executive Director of the GGC Foundation.
Tiller comes to GGC with a long and successful career in fundraising and development, working primarily in the areas of children’s health and advocacy. He has secured and directed approximately $43 million to support numerous nonprofit organizations including The Meyer Center for Special Children, Make-A-Wish Foundation of SC, and most recently served as President and CEO of the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation.
"We are thrilled to have someone with Bill's experience and passion for serving families who are affected by birth defects, disabilities, and autism," said Boo Ramage, outgoing Interim Executive Director of the GGC Foundation. Ramage stepped in to temporarily lead the 501(c)3 fundraising arm of GGC last July, successfully steering the final phase of the $1.56 million ‘Journey of Discovery’ campaign that supported several innovative technologies in research and diagnostic testing.
“GGC has been so fortunate to have strong philanthropic support throughout our history,” said Steve Skinner, MD, Director of GGC. “Bill brings valuable expertise as we expand our reach and advance our mission to serve families with compassion and expertise.”
“I feel a deep sense of calling to the mission of GGC, and I pledge to move the mission forward with purpose and joy," said Tiller. "I look forward to working alongside GGC’s distinguished professionals, in partnership with donors and investors, and in service to the many children and families who look to GGC for comfort and care."
To learn more about Tiller and the GGC Foundation, visit www.GGC.org/foundation.
Greenwood, South Carolina's globally recognized genetics center is further investing... see more
Greenwood Genetic Center has invested more than $1.75 million in laboratory equipment and a new on-site aquaculture facility that the organization says is the largest zebrafish facility in the state.
The new equipment includes a NovaSeq DNA sequencing system and a confocal microscopy system. The Illumina NovaSeq 6000 System offers high-throughput sequencing across a broad range of applications. The NovaSeq also meets the research needs of both the center and the Clemson Center for Human Genetics. Read the full news release here.
The Greenwood Genetic Center has named Richard Steet, PhD as Director of Research see more
GREENWOOD, South Carolina – The Greenwood Genetic Center has named Richard Steet, PhD as Director of Research and Head of the JC Self Research Institute. He joins the GGC faculty from the University of Georgia where he was Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in the University’s Complex Carbohydrate Research Center.
Steet’s research program, which is funded by the NIH and private foundations, is focused on defining disease mechanisms for two different classes of inherited diseases - lysosomal storage disorders and congenital disorders of glycosylation. Dr. Steet is also a dedicated advocate of rare disease research and serves on the scientific advisory boards for the National MPS Society and ISMRD, two organizations that provide family support and advance research.
“I am thrilled to become part of the world-renowned Greenwood Genetic Center, and I look forward to collaborating with their clinical and diagnostic divisions to enhance our understanding of the genetic basis for birth defects and disabilities,” said Steet.
Steet’s additional goals for the Center’s Research Division include integrating the Center’s strengths in basic science research with clinical and translational studies. He also plans to enhance partnerships with pharmaceutical companies that can drive therapeutic development for genetic disorders.
Steet and Heather Flanagan-Steet, PhD, who also joins GGC’s faculty as Director of Functional Studies and Director of the Center’s new Aquaculture Facility, study both cell and animal-based models of human disease. Their work uses a combination of chemical, molecular, and developmental approaches to unravel the complexity of these disorders and explore new ways to treat them. Their efforts will dovetail in many ways with the mission of the Clemson Center for Human Genetics, located adjacent to the JC Self Research Institute.
The Steets have been working with GGC over the past several months to set up a new aquaculture facility at the Center that, once fully operational, will house over 10,000 zebrafish. The facility, along with a new confocal microscope, which will arrive at GGC this fall, will allow in depth characterization of zebrafish models for several human genetic diseases. Their zebrafish and cell models will be further leveraged to study challenging cases seen in the clinic and diagnostic labs.
“Zebrafish, who share approximately 70% of their genes with humans, are a powerful model organism for genetic disorders,” shared Flanagan-Steet. “Since zebrafish embryos are clear, we can observe their development from the very beginning and learn how genetic factors lead to the disease-associated features that we see in patients.”
“GGC is fortunate to have the expertise of both Dr. Steet and Dr. Flanagan-Steet, and we are excited as our research program expands to include our first animal model,” said Steve Skinner, MD, Director of GGC. “The potential of this new area of study is tremendous, and what we learn through their lab will undoubtedly move us closer to developing effective treatments for patients with rare genetic disorders.”
Steet assumes the directorship from Charles Schwartz, PhD who joined GGC in 1985 as the Director of the Center’s Molecular Laboratory, and shifted his focus to lead research initiatives in 1996. Schwartz earned an international reputation in the area of X-linked intellectual disability. He remains on GGC faculty as a Senior Research Scientist.
Greenwood Genetic Center has set its sights on growing see more
The Greenwood Genetic Center has partnered with Greenwood County, South Carolina’s economic development arm on a plan to add new investors to its campus. Read on for full details...