Who’s Investing in the Future of Pediatric Genomics?

Like a lot of big financial players, Ernest Rady's gifts tend to be sporadic and immense. The last time he gave, it was $30 million huge, and it was to UC San Diego ten years ago. But don’t look now, because Rady is back on the scene, and this time he’s fronting $120 million to Rady Children’s Hospital to build a new center for pediatric genomics.

Pediatric genomics: That’s essentially the quest to use gene-based medicine to cure kids with serious and mysterious birth defects. There are a million parents out there whose kids afflicted with something terrible, and no one can tell them what it is.

Imagine you’re one of them, searching for answers to a malady that’s one in a million, or worse. Retta Beery was one, trying to mother twins who were wheelchair-bound and throwing up daily. When Beery decided to have both their genomes sequenced from start to finish, the specific genetic mutation, and a new prescription to go with it, gave them a new lease on life.

It’s an incredible story, and part of the reason why genomic medicine is now being used to locate cures for everything from cancer to autism to Alzheimer’s. With genomic sequencing comes the potential for better cures and treatments for many common maladies like childhood cancers, type 1 diabetes, and autism. It also carries with it the dazzling possibility that scientists may one day be able to simply erase a genetic malformation en utero, before a baby is even born. Like flipping a switch, the genetic mutation that leads to this or that birth defect goes away, and a healthy baby is born.

It’s almost too crazy, and you can see why it would excite a mega donor like Rady. 

Rady’s been pretty quiet about the motivations behind this gift, saying, "I had a hell of a lot more fun making it than I am giving it away.”