How to Make a Fortune From the Personalized Medicine Revolution
Many of the big transformational technologies set to change the science of medicine are based on single simple concepts. These include stem cells and RNA interference. There is another transformational change coming, however, that involves a huge array of technologies. I’m talking about “personalized medicine.”
Currently, medicine is, to a large degree, a “one size fits all” proposition. Doctors watch for adverse effects and check personal and family histories. Medical technologies, however, are designed for the general population, not individuals.
That’s going to change…
The Problem With the “Normal Curve”
We know that many current treatments work on some people, yet not others. Some drugs are safe for many people, but have dangerous side effects for others. This is because all of us have individual differences in our genetic code based on heredity and environment. Even slight differences can lead to very different reactions to medications.
This has created serious regulatory problems. Drugs are denied regulatory approval not because they do not work, but because some fraction of the population suffers adverse effects. As a result, we are often denied incredibly effective therapies simply because they are not universally effective.
This shockingly primitive state of affairs exists because, until very lately, we simply have not had the tools to get to the genetic roots of disease. Scientists and pharmaceutical companies haven’t precisely known how a particular drug’s chemical profile interacts with a genetic one. Medical science, in turn, has been unable to tailor drugs to work with a specific genetic makeup.
The Impact of the Genome
This is rapidly changing. Just a few short years ago, the human genome was first mapped. The genome, as you know, is the entire collection of genetic code that defines us at a biological level. Now scientists are studying single genes and their individual expressions.
It is meaningful, from the investor’s perspective, that Dr. Francis Collins, the head of the Human Genome Project, has just been selected by the Obama administration to head up the National Institutes of Health. Collins has long been a prominent champion for using the knowledge gained from human genome to accelerate personalized medicine.
This is important because institutional forces, with lobbying clout, always resist change. Much of Big Pharm, and its regulators, are vested in the “one size fits all” model. Many of the old players fear personalized medicine because it threatens the existing hierarchy. Collins’ presence at the top of the NIH will help counter this institutional resistance.
Incidentally, Collins has stated that genomics is currently where the computer industry was back in the 1970s – at the beginning of a technological revolution. While he was speaking in scientific terms, we should remember that the ’70s was also the right time to begin investing in a diversified portfolio of breakthrough computer technologies. Those who did so, despite claims that it was too risky or early, were made rich.
Dr. Collins is not alone in his views about personalized medicine. Former FDA director under G.W. Bush Dr. Andrew Von Eschenbach urges that the FDA approval process be overhauled and streamlined to help accelerate the adoption of personalized medicine. He is on record predicting that the medical industry will, in fact, undergo this profound metamorphosis.
For transformational profits,
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