Personalized medicine is transforming healthcare through the combination of diagnostic tests and therapeutic treatments. The result is a shift to a healthcare model that takes into account individual differences and the influence of genetics and environment. The advantage is more effective treatments, an enhanced ability to predict risk for chronic disease and the opportunity for earlier medical intervention.
Capitalizing on these advantages requires understanding at the molecular level the differences in individuals that cause them to be susceptible to a disease and determine whether or not a person will respond to a specific therapy. These individual variations, or biomarkers, occur in genes, proteins or metabolites. Identifying and validating these variations requires the use of ‘omic’ and targeted platform technologies like those available at the David H. Murdock Research Institute (DHMRI) at the NC Research Campus (NCRC) in Kannapolis.
DHMRI collaborates with organizations worldwide to identify and characterize biomarkers that are associated with specific diseases or therapeutic outcomes. The DHMRI’s technology allows for the phenotyping of individuals or model systems to identify and validate markers associated with an individuals’ health status or risk for disease.
NC Personalized Medicine Network
DHMRI offers more than instrumentation to the advancement of personalized medicine. They are a founding member of the North Carolina Personalized Medicine Network (NCPMN) that began discussing in 2010 how to foster the growth of the personalized medicine industry in the state. The NCPMN recently won a 12-month, $100,000 planning grant from the NC Biotechnology Center to develop a Personalized Medicine Center of Innovation (COI). COIs accelerate the growth of targeted industry sectors. Existing COIs include drug development, marine biotechnology, advanced medical technology and nanobiotechnology.
Other founding members of the Personalized Medicine COI include the Institute for Pharmacogenomics and Individualized Therapy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; the Center for Personalized Medicine at Duke University; Physicians Pharmacy Alliance, an integrated pharmacy services organization; the venture capital firm Pappas Ventures; and Gentris Corporation, a pharmacogenomic testing and biorepository service company. Their charge is to develop a business plan to create a self-sustaining program to create new jobs, products and opportunities for the advancement of personalized medicine in North Carolina. A successful business plan can trigger a second phase award of $2.5 million over four years to operate the COI and to grow a stronger personalized medicine sector under the umbrella of the proposed NC Personalized Medicine Network.
The state is already home to prominent research universities, more than 500 life-science companies, and a strong information technology cluster, all of which serve as a platform for advancing personalized medicine in the state. Many of the state’s assets converge at the NCRC, where DHMRI shares in the mission to personalize health through the combined research and development efforts of university, corporate and non-profit partners in the areas of human health, nutrition and agriculture with the express goal of finding new ways to prevent, treat and cure disease.
“DMHRI and the NCRC provide the nexus of three major universities, two of which have major health care delivery systems, the life sciences industry and a major personalized medicine initiative in the MURDOCK study,” said Geoffrey Ginsburg, MD PhD, who is a Duke University professor of medicine, executive director of the health system’s Center for Personalized Medicine and director of Genomic Medicine in the Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy.
As a leading member of the Personalized Medicine COI, Ginsburg describes DHMRI as a magnet for attracting industry to North Carolina for advancing genomic technologies into commercialization opportunities. “I view the NCRC and DHMRI as key stakeholders in advancing personalized medicine in this state,” he said, “and hope both will be significant contributors to our COI planning and to the development of a personalized medicine economy for our state.”
A Few Facts About Personalized Medicine
In 2011, there were at least 72 examples of personalized drugs, treatments and diagnostic products available. Over four times as many as in 2006 when only 13 such products were available. The benefits of personalized medicine as reported in the PMC’s The Case for Personalized Medicine can “shift emphasis in medicine from reaction to prevention; select optimal therapy and reduce trial-and-error prescribing; make drugs safer by avoiding adverse drug reactions; increase patient adherence to treatment; improve quality of life; revive drugs that failed in clinical trials or were withdrawn from the market; and help control the overall cost of health care.”
More specifically, the increased application of personalized medicine may provide additional benefits including:
• Reducing the need for chemotherapy for women with breast cancer who receive a diagnostic test prior to treatment by 34 percent.
• Preventing 17,000 strokes each year through properly dosing the blood thinner warfarin.
• Saving health care systems over $600 million in annual costs by using a genetic test for the KRAS gene prior to the treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer.
Personalized medicine continues to transform healthcare as the cost of sequencing a human genome decreases, the number of healthcare systems with electronic health records continues to increase and more companion diagnostics and drugs with “pharmacogenomic biomarkers” are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.