February 16th, 2016

Why Precision Medicine is More than a Trendy Term (Part 1)

Many Americans first learned about precision medicine (customized medicine that considers a person’s genes, environment, habits and lifestyle) in January 2015, when President Obama, in his State of the Union address, proclaimed a new research effort aimed at improving health and treating disease.

Soon after, the administration allocated $215 million of its 2016 budget to the Precision Medicine Initiative, which hopes to recruit at least one million patients to a biomedical research cohort and accelerate development of individualized treatments.

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The high-profile speech and subsequent funding added momentum to a field—also known as personalized medicine—already riding an upward trajectory. 28% of novel new drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2015 were personalized medicines, up from 21% in 2014, according to a report from the Personalized Medicine Coalition.

What’s more, the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development estimates (based on a survey of major drug manufacturers) that personalized medicines in development will increase nearly 70% by the year 2020. Oncology, neurology and cardiovascular drugs will lead the charge.

“Precision medicine is now. We’re already using it, it’s already affecting people’s lives, and we know it works,” said Jo Handelsman , associate director for science in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “But if we can expand it to cover a lots of different disease and health characteristics, we will be able to treat all sorts of diseases that we have no idea how to tackle right now… This is a revolution in medicine.”

A related success story credits precision medicine in the development of Kalydeco, a drug that treats the underlying cause of cystic fibrosis (CF) rather than the symptoms of the disease. The drug has the potential to significantly extend the life expectancy of CF patients.

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