Last week, the White House released its National Bioeconomy Blueprint. It lays out some strategic objectives designed to help realize the full potential of the U.S. biotechnology sector to generate economic growth by creating jobs and addressing societal needs.
As an example of how the government’s efforts can facilitate the development of a more robust bioeconomy, the report discusses the impact of the Human Genome Project and the development of personalized medicine. The Blueprint cites the Case for Personalized Medicine, 3rd Edition, noting “advances in recent technologies have increased the momentum of personalized medicine – customized healthcare based on specific genetic or other information of an individual patient.”
While we agree that policies are needed to help support research and development (R&D), improve translational and regulatory science, improve regulation in other areas, enhance workforce training, and develop new public-private partnerships and precompetitive collaborations, we are concerned they are not sufficient to allow us to realize Adriana Jenkins’ dying wish, that all patients have access to personalized treatments.
The White House is correct to shine a light on FDA and direct the agency to focus attention on application review times, coordinated parallel reviews of products, and continued improvement of regulatory science. In reality, we are already seeing the benefits of this increased coordination – with FDA’s accelerated review and approval of Kalydeco™ for cystic fibrosis and Xalkori® for non-small cell lung cancer, each with a companion diagnostic approved together and in advance of FDA time lines.
Still, engaging on regulatory science and streamlining FDA processes will only go so far to improve the bioeconomy and bring personalized medicine to patients. For instance, current comparative effectiveness research (CER) and health technology assessment (HTA) models, which are not addressed in the Blueprint, are not well aligned with the science of personalized medicine and such misalignment causes additional barriers to market entry and patient access after FDA approval. The Blueprint highlights coverage with evidence development (CED) as a potential HTA model, but it should be noted that although CED can be a good tool, if done wrong, it can also chill innovation.
Likewise, unclear and unrealistic expectations for obtaining Medicare coverage and adequate payment for personalized medicine products and services are a substantial hurdle, preventing companies from seizing the full scientific potential and translating that into new treatments and the resulting high-paying jobs and economic contributions that follow.
We look forward to working with the Administration and with Congress to shape policies that will help support the ability of companies to continue to develop personalized medicines and bring them to patients, including research and development tax credits, delivery system reforms, and regulatory and reimbursement policies. Given the tremendous potential of personalized medicines, it’s key that we get the policies right to foster companies working on personalized medicine and thereby improve patients’ lives and our economy.