Shaping Patient-Centric Health Care

By Marie Daghlian

Rapid advances in genomics and technology are transforming personalized medicine into precision medicine. Genomic medicine is here, Euan Ashley said as he welcomed a gathering of more than 8,000 people to the Precision Medicine World Conference (PMWC) held in Silicon Valley. Ashley, director of Stanford University’s Clinical Genomics Service, talked about how personalized medicine, treatment targeted to an individual, is moving to precision medicine, where mining the data of populations can inform the care of individuals.

Held at the end of January, the three-day event kicked off with a fireside chat between Robert Califf, former deputy director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and event chair Keith Yamamoto, the vice chancellor for science policy and strategy, and vice dean for research, at UCSF School of Medicine.

Califf noted that about more than 90 percent of drugs in early stage development never make it to New Drug Approval (NDA) submission. That said, he said the FDA approves about 90 percent of all NDAs.

Talking about the FDA’s role in expediting the best treatments for patients, Califf spoke on the increased involvement of patient advocacy, which he said was welcome, advances in regulatory science, and the challenges of the new technologies coming to market. “Implantable devices must be regulated, but many wearables don’t need to be,” Califf said. Laboratory developed tests (LDTs) do not have to be FDA-approved, but said Califf: “If you think the average doctor knows whether the test he’s ordered is the right test, you are out of your mind.”

Microbiome panel

Over three days, PMWC’s workshops and presentations covered the newest research and trends in precision medicine, from immunotherapy to scientific wellness, from using big data to predicting patient response to how artificial intelligence can humanize clinical diagnostics, from next-generation sequencing to liquid biopsies in cancer prediction and detection, from sharing data to getting paid for diagnostic tests. And as always, the event had a panel on capturing the interest of venture investors, interestingly patterned after the Cinderella story—unjust oppression or triumphant reward.

Greg Simon, former executive director of the Cancer Moonshot program, which was tasked to accelerate research in the field and funded with $3 billion by the Obama Administration. “At the end of the day, we were dealing with changing time and space,” Simon said.  We need to change perceptions about how long it takes to do something in science, Simon noted, and to share data. “Hoarding data is why things go so slowly,” he said.

The program, which had a one year charter and $1.8 billion in hand, is likely to end. But in that time it started more than seventy initiatives and collectives that Simon says will continue regardless of what Trump does.

Greg Simon

Sponsored by UCSF, Stanford University, Duke University, and Intermountain Precision Genomics, the ninth annual PMWC Silicon Valley was held at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California.

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