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Tag Archives: Personalized Health Manifesto

Biotech Trends Update — Personalized Medicine: Duncan’s Personalized Health Manifesto is Primarily Preventative

Image from flickr user Steve Rhodes. Some rights reserved.Journalist David Ewing Duncan’sPersonalized Health Manifesto” was published this week by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The most interesting thing about the manifesto* is that it assumes that the technical hurdles to generating and understading a full set of personalized health data have been overcome, and focuses on how that information can be deployed most effectively.  Duncan says that “a widening gap exists in integrating and implementing this promising new epoch of personalized health.” There are two main themes in the manifesto: integration and prevention.

Integration comes from Duncan’s view about how the flood of personalized data should be analyzed by researchers and physicians:

“A balance between specialization and integration needs to be restored,with an emphasis on the whole human organism as much as its parts…”

Prevention is, for Duncan, the natural best use of personalized data:

“Shifting to a health care system based as much on healthy wellness as illness is achievable…”

Both are laudable long-term goals, but I am not convinced of the need for urgent action on either point.

Specialization is (as Duncan acknowledges) what has enabled us to discover personalized markers and to analyze them on a allele-by-allele basis. We are a long way from making meaningful predictions about systemic effects on complex traits based on the available information. A shift too early away from specialization could prevent us from ever developing the underlying science sufficiently to make reliable predictions.

And shifting to a preventative healthcare system is not a goal I view as being unique to personalized medicine. As genomic testing becomes widely available, and patients begin to process their data, complex traits continue to present a challenge for them and their doctors — now that I know I have an increased risk of heart disease, I should shift my diet and increase my exercise. But these are things preventative healthcare advocates have been recommending for decades; and there is no evidence that I’ve seen that suggests the genetic information about increased risk is more motivational than family history, or peer behaviour, or any other non-personalized factor.

Bottom line: I’m no expert on manifestos, but while there’s nothing in this one I feel strongly opposed to, it doesn’t move me to action either. Read the whole thing (it’s not very long) and form your own (personalized) view.

* Other than his decision to call it a manifesto.
Image from flickr user  Steve RhodesSome rights reserved.
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