IMD International

Looking forward to personalized medicine

June 28, 2012

The current revolution in life sciences is the first step towards a fundamental change in healthcare. Instead of being essentially reactive, medicine will move towards the "Four Ps": Predictive, Preventive, Personalized and Participatory.

"It's a revolution in the making," Didier Trono, M.D., told an audience at IMD's Orchestrating Winning Performance (OWP) program.


Dr Trono is Professor and Dean at the School of Life Sciences at the EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne). He said the trigger towards this fundamental change in healthcare is the sequencing of the human genome, which was announced in 2001.

Although we still have much to learn about the human genome, Dr Trono said the mapping will make it easier to identify individual risk factors and know which treatments work best and what side effects a medicine will have on each patient.

Our ills will be treated with highly specific interventions based on our precise molecular fingerprinting rather than overly general classes of pathologies.

"This is very much within reach. It's the first stage of personalized medicine," said Dr Trono. "We'll have a better idea of which people respond to which therapy."

Over the next 10-20 years these new developments will hopefully yield more fruit, such as the possibility of tailored cancer treatment based on the specific pathology of the individual patient.

More personalized medicine offers the possibility of reduced healthcare costs for treating certain diseases and the acceleration of drug target discovery. But it remains to be seen how tangible all these promises are.

Current developments also raise a number of societal issues, such as protection of individual privacy and the restructuring of medicine.

Dr Trono said moving towards a healthcare system based on the Four Ps also raises issues related to ethics, law, economics and medical informatics (data management and encryption).

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