Precision medicine or personalized medicine offers a way for health care providers to plan a patient’s treatment based on their individual needs. By combining genomics, big data analytics, supercomputing, and population health data, precision medicine provides essential tools for scientists and physicians to move modern medicine towards a more targeted precise treatment. Here, Yuben Moodley, a Deputy Director of the Institute of Respiratory Health, discusses personalized medicine with its progress and challenges.
The idea of tailoring medical treatment to the individual is not necessarily new. For decades, physicians have attempted to provide the best treatments based on what they knew about each patient. The most fundamental manifestation of this practice is collecting as much health history, previous illnesses, allergies, and basic physical characteristics for each new patient. Yes, we have all suffered through completing the seemingly endless number of forms each time we see a new doctor. These questionnaires are for our good and allow the doctor to personalize our treatment in the long run.
What has changed over the last few decades is understanding how a person’s unique molecular and genetic profiles make them susceptible to certain diseases. Current research is increasing our ability to predict which medical treatments will be safe and effective for each patient.
The progress that health science professionals have made is due primarily to their ability to collect enormous amounts of data, apply cutting-edge computing technologies to process the data, and employ decades of data analytics research to draw appropriate conclusions. In addition to the technologies necessary to make precision medicine a reality, it has required cooperation from a vast array of scientists and healthcare professionals. This broad community of stakeholders includes:
- Patients and Consumers;
- Healthcare Providers;
- Biopharmaceutical Companies;
- Diagnostic Companies;
- Academic Researchers;
- IT and Technology Companies;
- Advocacy Groups;
- Government Agencies and Regulators.
To make precision healthcare commonplace, these entities have to reach unprecedented levels of cooperation, all the while protecting personally identifiable patient information.
Challenges faced by healthcare providers implementing precision medicine are those inherent with new technologies. Systems needed to collect and analyze data at this scope are in the early stages of development or have not yet been developed. As technician requirements are designed and tested, standards must be set to ensure the information is usable by a wide range of practitioners.
The collection and dissemination of data needed for personalized medicine research also raise ethical, social, and legal issues. It is crucial to protect participants’ privacy and the confidentiality of their health information. Participants need to understand the risks and benefits of participating in research, which means researchers must develop a rigorous informed consent process.
From academia to private healthcare enterprises, the stakeholders must consider the enormous costs of providing this level of research. Government grants and private investments will all be needed to move this promising research from the lab to a doctor’s office near you.
About Yuben Moodley
Yuben Moodley is a dedicated physician, researcher, and Deputy Director of the Institute of Respiratory Health. His research focuses on investigating mechanisms and finding novel cellular therapies for Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. He serves on the National Health and Medical Research Council panel, where he got funding for his research.