A recent article in Science Translational Medicine discussed Precision Medicine moving from the first or incumbent curve marking steady progress, and a second or nascent curve that would transform and dramatically accelerate progress. They suggested the second curve would be defined by precision medicine in which scientists and clinicians use big data networks to understand the disease and provide precise health advice, diagnoses and treatments for each individual.
Precision medicine and big data and AI are certainly converging to rapidly accelerate progress in medicine and treatments. Even government are getting involved. This year President Obama set up a Precision Medicine initiative, a new research effort to revolutionize how we improve and treat disease.
In the old days drugs were designed as a one-size-fits-all - bar a dosage adjustment for weight or age. However now with precision medicine we are now looking at the specific molecular pathway and unique genetic profile and pairing a treatment to precisely treat this combination. This is transforming the treatment of cancer – although it is not unique to cancer.
With Tysabri (natalizumab), Elan Pharma uncovered that multiple sclerosis is actually one of several symptomatic expressions resultant from an underlying disease pathway promoting excessive entry of white blood cells into the central nervous system. This leads to nerve inflammation and nerve cell damage.
Many in the pharma industry have spent some years selling of their diagnostic divisions but it is clear that soon a drug will be useless without the linked diagnostic to detect the relevant biomarker.
Soon it won’t be just about the drugs alone, but about the successful linked pairing of a diagnostic and a drug - like a lock and key. Companies successfully creating this combination will be the leaders of the future and the impact on pharma will be profound.
Precision medicine is a game changer in the truest sense of the term. So much has been discovered recently in medicine that soon all the textbooks will have to be rewritten. ‘Nature Medicine’ describes precision medicine as referring to the idea that molecular information improves the precision with which patients are categorized and treated. With an accurate diagnosis of a patient at the molecular level, the treatment can be precisely matched to the underlying molecular pathway and relevant gene expression and, therefore, will work as it is meant to. This in turn will provide strong value and outcomes for the patient, the payer and ultimately the Pharma company. For example, recent discoveries in Oncology demonstrated a breast cancer and a bladder cancer as being identical.