We are witnessing a healthcare revolution. Thanks to advances in genetic analysis, molecular biology and cell science, we now know more about the human condition than ever before. This wealth of information opens the door for a new era of medicine, treating the patient, not just their disease.

With advances in data collection and analysis, our understanding of the physiologic and genetic basis of disease, as well as the variations between different patients, is increasing exponentially.  This is allowing us to understand why individuals respond differently to the same treatment. This emerging model of precision medicine means that medical decisions, treatments, practices and products are tailored to the individual patient.

The completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003 was an early step in our journey to understanding of the genetic basis of disease.  Developments in nucleic acid sequencing and our understanding of genomics has been critical to the emergence of precision medicine, but other technologies play a central role too, with advances in proteomics, metabolomics and cell biology, as well as informatics, biosensors and artificial intelligence all play a part in this exciting field.

This new personalised approach to healthcare has many benefits for both the individual and society which include:

  • Improving diagnosis accuracyoncology has been at the forefront of this movement. By classifying diseases into more precise subtypes, clinicians are able to more accurately diagnose and prognose disease.

  • Optimising treatments – when a genetic or molecular signature of a disease is discovered, an obvious and productive area of research involves looking for drugs that can target this specifically. This is one of the central approaches of the burgeoning field of immunotherapy.

  • Improving patient experience – clinicians can predict the treatments with the best safety or tolerability profile for a particular patient. Variations in the amount, or structure, of particular enzymes or signalling molecules in an individual may affect the way a patient responds to, or processes, a particular drug.

  • Reduced healthcare costs – in the face of an ageing world population, the cost of healthcare continues to raise dramatically. Currently there is significant waste of resources in the use of ineffective treatments. If treatment can be optimised to enhance efficacy, not to mention avoiding the costs of managing adverse reactions, significant savings could be made.

  • New drugs on the market – the identification and analysis of biomarkers is becoming an essential part of prospective drug development programmes, as well as helping to repurpose existing drugs. This has the potential to markedly increase success rates for new drug approvals, as higher response rates in specific populations can be achieved.

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