On November 28th and 29th, Partners HealthCare, Harvard Medical School, and Harvard Business School will host the 8th Annual Personalized Medicine Conference in Boston. As has been customary since the conference began, the meeting is also the venue at which the Personalized Medicine Coalition presents its leadership award. This year, it will go to Randy Scott, Ph.D., a founder and former CEO of Genomic Health, Inc.
During the past seven years, we have seen many changes in personalized medicine. Much of the excitement about personalized medicine continues to be driven by the ever decreasing cost of sequencing DNA and RNA. Whole genome sequencing, estimated to cost a billion dollars or more at the beginning of the century has gone down to a few thousand dollars, and the so called $1,000 genome is not too far behind. All in all, the 20,000 or so genes of the human genome only add up to less than two percent of the genome. If the sequencing cost is directly proportional to the size of DNA that is being sequenced, the cost of sequencing all genes should one day be no more $100. We are not quite there yet, but the rapid decline in costs is fueling the evolution of personalized medicine.
There is also a rapid evolution in our understanding of the genes and genomes of many organisms, including humans. Understanding how a normal gene functions and how changes in it (mutations) alter the cellular function is increasing at a rapid pace. As a result, sequencing whole genomes, whole exomes (all of the coding portions of genes), and subsets of genes for medical purposes is becoming ever more common. The fruits of all of these exciting developments are evident in many specialties of medicine but especially in prenatal testing, diagnosis of newborn and pediatric disorders, and cancer.
This year’s conference will highlight the genomic advances in science and medicine, and how they are being applied to diagnose and treat many disorders. The rapid development of technology also raises many questions about the clinical utility of these advances; about the policy and regulatory issues around what, when, who, and how to regulate; and about how the costs are reimbursed.
Personalized medicine is not just an American issue. Many nations of the world are developing strategies to implement personalized medicine in their own countries, and a number of those efforts will be featured at the conference. Professor Richard Hamermesh of the Harvard Business School and Norman Selby of Perseus LLC developed a business case on companion diagnostics that promises to be thought provoking and, based on previous years’ experience, a highlight of the conference.
Please join us at the end of November and participate in the dialog about how personalized medicine is evolving and what its implications are for your health and that of all peoples of the world.
Register online at www.personalizedmedicineconference.org. Follow the conversation online at @HarvardPMConf and #PMConf.