Today we see world leaders posting selfies and the Dalai Lama writing inspirational tweets. Each of us have our own personal online profiles, e-mail accounts and range of devices that we personalise endlessly. Digital innovation and personalization has finally reached all four corners of the globe; it’s become a normal part of our daily life and a commonplace expectation. We want everything to be tailored, filtered and made for us.
There is one aspect of our lives, however, where personalization has not yet reached and this area is perhaps where personalization is the most crucial – our healthcare. The rise of personalised medicine has been painfully slow, and a quick search online will reveal little on what it is, whether it even exists yet or when it will eventually happen. Do we really understand what personalised medicine is and can it ever truly be personal?
We are all different. Simple test: look at the person next to you. Are they the same height as you? No. Do they have the same eye color? No, because you each have your own unique genetic make-up. Do they have the same medical history or are they taking the same medicines as you? Probably not, but if you both went to the doctor with a headache you would receive the same treatment.
Traditional pharmacology and medicine has always adopted the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to conditions and treatment, and ignored the genetic considerations associated with the effectiveness of drugs. For years, the potential for more specific treatment and tailor-made recovery has laid dormant within us… until now. Pharmaceutical companies are currently looking to genetics for the next major breakthrough, inspired by the Human Genome Project (completed in 2003), the age of Personalized Medicine and Healthcare is upon us… even if we haven’t realized it yet. What does it offer? It will inevitably lead to improved quality of care for the patient, as well as a reduced risk of drug-drug or drug-gene interactions, as dosing and medication are selected with the patients’ genetic information and previous treatment outcomes in mind.
Personalised Medicine, also known as PM, is a deceptively simple medical model. The medicine you receive when you see your doctor will be fine-tuned to your genetic makeup, and you will feel much better for it as it was designed, literally, with your name on it! In practice, however, we can see that this is not necessarily the case. To what extent is the medication personalised? Could it be developed to a molecular level; where a chemical has been specifically engineered and synthesised to suit your genome? Or perhaps it is on a concentration level; where the dose has been adjusted to suit your exact dimensions and susceptibility? This area of study, within the scope of PM, is called pharmacogenomics. Effectively, it is the study of the role of genetics in drug response. It aims to develop rational means by which drug therapy is optimised to an individual, and is one of the focal points in the development of PM.
PpersonalizedHealthcare, on the other hand, may have an even more dilute definition. Some people coin the term as synonymous with PM, and use them interchangeably. Personally, I see it as a more generic term, to which PM is a subset. We can link lifestyle choices and environmental factors with drug regimes when referring to healthcare. Also, PH can involve the use of an individual’s biological information to give a prophetic view of risks and response to future treatments. In some respects, PH is already a very important part of the medical process. It is delivered by healthcare professionals in their clinical judgement of cases on an individual basis.
The progression of our understanding of genetics is the driving force behind the implementation of Personalised Medicine and accessibility to all. Here at Geneix, we envisage a world in which personalised medicine and healthcare are the cornerstones for the promotion of health and prevention of disease in the near future. Instead of evidence-led medication, which treats the majority of people and leaves others with either very little effect or serious side effects, we believe that biological data of each individual will allow us to predict the right therapy with the fewest side effects, improving the quality of care and decrease costs incurred at the same time.
By Shahid Dharamsi