Precision Medicine – a new kind of #health tech

We discover what precision medicine is all about, and hear a review of the ground-breaking precision medicine event at the London Business School 2016.07

It is well-known that Steve Jobs spent $100,000 to learn his cancer’s genetic information hoping to find the most suitable medical treatments.

These tests were conducted by scientists from Foundation Medicine – a Boston-based diagnostics company counting Google and Bill Gates as investors.

Genetic testing has also been in the news more recently, with companies like 23andMe , a California-based personal genomics and biotechnology company that offers Personal Genome Service now for £149. Customers can request DNA collection kit on-line, send the kit to 23andMe and receive reports including information such as inherited conditions and genetic risk factors.

These are the examples of a concept called Precision medicine – a concept to segregate patients into subgroups based on genetic information, environment and lifestyles and to design treatments based on the subgroups.

This is a new technology that has become possible with recent technological developments.

Improved treatment outcomes, reduced side-effects and better disease prevention are the examples of potential advantages of Precision medicine. There are still some challenges for this new sector, such as improving accuracy of treatments and protecting patients’ privacy, it is also receiving more attention.

To accelerate this trend, Barack Obama announced a plan to invest $215m in “Precision Medicine Initiative” in Jan 2015.

Precision medicine has a possibility to change the landscape of Healthcare for patients, healthcare business owners, entrepreneurs and investors. 

Review of the ground-breaking Precision Medicine event at the London Business School 2016

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the 8th Global Healthcare Conference hosted by the London Business School Healthcare Club. The topic this year was all about Precision Medicine (PM); a new concept in Healthcare where patients are segregated into subgroups based on their genetic information, environment and lifestyles and medical treatments are designed based on these differences between the subgroups.

So essentially, moving away from the one-size-fits-all treatment model to a personalized and precise one.

How did it go?

Pretty good actually.

The conference was held at the Royal College of Physicians in London where upon registration. Upon arrival, a goody bag was offered and you had ample opportunity to network for an hour while being served tea, coffee and biscuits before the Welcome Speech by Andrew Likierman, the Dean of LBS, was delivered.

The opening keynote speech was by Dr Jane Griffiths, the first female Company Group Chairman of Janssen in EMEA, the pharmaceutical division of the Johnson & Johnson family. She orientated the audience by giving an overview of what PM is, what is has done so far for healthcare and what potential it has.

Dr. Jane Griffiths Janssen EMEA

This was followed by the first panel discussion – “Delivering Precision Medicine for everyone” which was chaired by Dr Nicos Savva, an Associate Professor at LBS. The panel included Dr John Isaac, a senior neuroscientist at J&J Innovation Centre; Jerry Cacciotti, Partner at A.T. Kearney and Blanca Rosales Saez, executive advisor at Molecular Health.

This discussion was heavily based on the pharmaceutical side of PM and was very thought provoking. However, thoughts of how expensive the drugs could be and how it could fit into the current NHS had me questioning how viable PM is in the current climate in the UK. This also ruffled a few feathers in the audience, in particular a potential investor who wanted to know the longevity and sustainability of PM.

The fireside chat that followed was between Michael Thomas, Partner at A.T. Kearney and Dr Junaid Bajwa, a practicing GP and Executive Director of Healthcare Services for MSD.

I thoroughly enjoyed the fireside chat as it was good to see how insights that Dr Bajwa had from his clinical work informed his work within PM. It was here that I could see the potential for doctors and medical students to take observation from their daily work and see where potential areas for PM to make a significant difference are.

After the panel discussion and fireside chat, canapes and drinks were offered in a 30 minute dining break which once again offered an excellent networking opportunity.

The second panel – “How digital technologies are enabling Precision Medicine” had me hooked. I may have been a little biased as I am an amateur tech nerd but leaving my hobbies aside, this is where I could see potential for the implementation of technology based precision medicine into the current NHS. Panelists included Dr Roy Katso, previously Director of Open Innovation & Funding Partnerships at GSK; Dr Jackie Hunter, CEO at Benevolent Bio; Dr Chris Meier, Principal at The Boston Consulting Group and Rabin Yaghoubi, CCO at Babylon Health.

Talks of how digital healthcare allows us to get to a broader set of patients and how to set the digital standards of healthcare provision again showed me areas where doctors and medical students could provide valuable insight from their time in the front line. However, there were big issues over the security of patient data that showed potential causes of problems. For example, where does the data go once collected and who has ownership of it.

The closing keynote speaker was Dr Joanne Hackett, the CCO of Precision Medicine Catapult who are working to build a world-leading, UK-based, Precision Medicine industry. She talked about how the UK is already leading in this industry with developments in telemedicine, diagnostics, genetic screening and that the UK has embraced trends like patient consumer focused healthcare, tech “anytime, anywhere” and wellness. She also highlighted barriers such as lack of research funding and a lack of knowledge about precision medicine among doctors who have never been trained in this field.

The conference ended with another opportunity to network while being offered copious amounts of wine. Bonus!

All in all, this was an excellently organised event and the choice of topic was current and relevant. There is clearly huge momentum behind PM so it will be coming into our healthcare industries whether we like it or not. The question is, can the current healthcare system adapt to what precision medicine needs or would they have to start from the very beginning.

With the way things are going should I dare speculate that in the future the government funded NHS continues to provide the “one size fits all” model and the private sector provides the “personalized’ one?

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