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Advances in Personalized Medicine


March 16, 2010 | There isn’t an issue of Bio•IT World that doesn’t address the subject of personalized medicine in some respect. Many of our stories tackle issues of making medicine more predictive, more preventive, and more participatory—the concept encapsulated in “P4 medicine” by Lee Hood and colleagues (see “ISB Is a Sure Cure for Summer Doldrums,” Bio•IT World, July 2007). In recent years, the first examples of personalized diagnostics and therapies have emerged, with Herceptin leading the way. Biomarkers, gene expression profiles and next-generation sequencing approaches are dramatically changing the stratification and management of cancer. And the arrival of consumer genomics two years ago has empowered patients as never before.

In this special report, Bio•IT World spotlights a group of organizations and thought leaders pushing new avenues in personalized genetics and medicine. On the cover of this issue is Gene Network Sciences’ co-founder Iya Khalil, Cornell physicist turned systems biologist, who believes that patient data holds the key to building accurate and predictive models of key therapeutic pathways. With some supercomputing muscle from IBM, GNS reports early success identifying new targets and therapeutic pathways for arthritis in a partnership with Biogen Idec that the industry will be watching closely (page 30).

George Mason University’s Chip Petricoin is also trying to extract information on pathways, but by tackling proteins using a technology called reverse phase protein microarrays, in this case studying small biopsy specimens. Early results in collaboration with Novartis appear highly promising (page 34). A future neighbor in Northern Virginia is Dietrich Stephan, who after co-founding personal genomics firm Navigenics, is back east building the Ignite Institute for individualized Health (page 32). Stephan is partnering with Life Technologies and acquiring 100 SOLiD sequencing instruments, but Ignite will not be just a state-of-the-art genome institute but the epicenter of a true personalized medicine ecosystem.

Ecosystems were very much on the mind of PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Mike Mentesana, who talked to Bio•IT World about convergence, new technologies, and new attitudes in the wake of the recent PwC report on personalized medicine (see page 35). Another consultant, Harry Glorikian of Scientia Advisors, opens this report with some refreshingly candid opinions on the uptake of personalized medicine and what it means for pharma. “Personalized medicine is shifting therapeutic selection from an art that can be influenced by a detailer to a science where the detailer has very little impact,” he says.

The impact of next-generation sequencing is not surprisingly impacting the diagnostics field. The Beyond Batten Disease Foundation is an ambitious program for the one-shot genetic screening of some 440 debilitating recessive genetic diseases. The foundation is the creation of Craig Benson, CEO of Rules-Based Medicine, following the diagnosis of his daughter with Batten Disease, in collaboration with the National Center of Genome Resources.

These are of course just six scenes in the vast convoluted landscape of personalized medicine, a tantalizing glimpse of the evolution of health care.

The Editors

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For reprints and/or copyright permission, please contact  Terry Manning, 781.972.1349 , tmanning@healthtech.com.