It comes as no surprise that The Age of Personalized Medicine Blog isn’t alone in recognition of this momentous anniversary for the human genome sequencing. Many are eager to discuss the ramifications of this milestone, which is serving in some way as a litmus test for the potential of the genome, and the revolution its sequencing is expected to bring. Some are celebrating the successes we’ve achieved in personalized medicine in only one decade; others are impatient for the arrival of more significant advances; and some are skeptical that we will ever get there.
As you might see at any milestone, a lively debate is taking place. I remain convinced that personalized medicine is not only achievable, it is also changing the way medicine is practiced here and now, and is laying the groundwork for more successes in the future. See The Case for Personalized Medicine for some of those examples.
In the April issue of Nature, referencing his decade-old predictions on the adoption and implementation of personalized medicine, Francis Collins remarked, “It is fair to say that all of these predictions have come true, with some caveats that offer important lessons about the best path forward for genomics and personalized medicine. The promise of a revolution in human health remains quite real.”[i] The primary challenge as we look to the future is that we ensure that the lessons we have learned thus far—both from successes and “dead-ends”—are applied in our continued efforts to achieve this revolution.
We’ve summarized below some of the recent coverage related to the anniversary. I invite you to take a look at what others have written, and contribute to the conversation by letting us know what you think.
New York Times
The New York Times recently ran a series of articles and an editorial on the human genome at ten. The first article A Decade Later, Genetic Map Yields Few New Cures discusses how additional research has revealed that the genetic roots of disease are extremely complex, making the development of effective target therapies a greater challenge than was originally anticipated. The second article, Awaiting the Genome Payoff, shows that researchers and drug companies are investing heavily and still maintain hope for genomic medicine. The article points to examples Merck, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Genentech, Human Genome Sciences and other companies that are using molecular targets to transform their drug development process. The articles prompted a number of Letters to the Editor, including one from Leon E. Rosenberg of Princeton University and Huntington F. Willard of Duke University Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy. In their letter, they noted, “Scientific discoveries have always been separated from their clinical contributions, not by 10 years, but usually by 25 or more. This has been true for every major improvement in health care…The genome’s secrets will accrue to the benefit of sick as well as healthy people, but not overnight.”
Last week, Reuters published an article entitled Ten Years On, Genomic Revolution Only Just Starting. Andrew Witty, Chief Executive Officer of GlaxoSmithKline, echoed the sentiment reflected in the title, “The great mistake everybody made was thinking that the decoding of the genome would somehow yield a drug. It’s got nothing to do with yielding a drug – it’s got everything to do with yielding a whole array of components and ways of looking at a problem which, together with other things, will yield drugs. It’s going to take time.”
For a more comprehensive status check from Reuters, read their report A Golden Age of Genomics? A Decade after the Human Genome Was Decoded, Cures Are on the Horizon.
In April, Nature published an issue dedicated entirely to The Human Genome at Ten which included editorials from the two men who led the charge in the draft sequencing of the human genome in 2000 – Francis Collins, then head of the Human Genome Project, and Craig Venter, then head of Celera Genomics. When the issue was released, Nature conducted an online survey of its readers probing the question “What did the human genome sequence mean to you?” Last week, they published the results of the survey, as well as an analysis of the findings in the article Science after the Sequence. While the general consensus is that the true revolution of the human genome is still taking shape, many agree that “it has transformed the professional lives of scientists, inspiring them to tackle new biological problems and throwing up some acute new challenges along the way.”
New England Journal of Medicine
The New England Journal of Medicine has also embarked on a series dedicated to genomic medicine in recognition of the anniversary. The series began in May with an editorial from Harold Varmus, who was recently nominated by President Obama to serve as the director of the National Cancer Institute. NEJM also published Genomic Medicine — An Updated Primer which offers a crash course in DNA, RNA, SNPs, GWAS, and all the “-omics” in between. The series continued in June as NIH Director Francis Collins and FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg described the scientific and regulatory structure, and the strides that FDA and NIH are making, that will illuminate The Path to Personalized Medicine. Collins and Hamburg note, “Together, we have been focusing on the best ways to develop new therapies and optimize prescribing by steering patients to the right drug at the right dose at the right time.” And indeed, efforts such as the NIH-funded Clinical and Translational Sciences Award program, FDA’s Voluntary Genomic Data Submission program, and the recently announced FDA-NIH collaboration offer just a few examples of the agencies’ confidence that personalized medicine is not only achievable, but represents the best path forward in providing optimal patient care.
Now that you’ve taken a look at what others have to say, please let us know what you think about this milestone and the accomplishments in science, business and policy over the last decade.
[i] Collins, Francis. “Has the Revolution Arrived?” Nature 464, 674-675 (1 April 2010).