Precision medicine is booming. All countries, it seems, are investing heavily in the precision medicine market, from word leading economies to developing nations.
Intuitively the health of its citizens is a logical requirement for all countries, but this is nothing new. But what is driving the investment – in some cases overspending their budgets by orders of magnitude – in precision medicine?
Cynically it could be argued that precision medicine is just a smart way to market more effectively to a stratified group of potential customers. The science points to something much deeper. The human population is not as unform as it appears from the macro scale. We vary individually in the myriad functions are reactions within us from second to second, impacting how we respond to our environment and to disease. Understanding this variation is vital if we are to develop therapies and treatments that are effective for all. A one size fits all approach to medicine hits the middle ground, but individually we respond to medicines subtly differently and as individually as we are. It works for many, but not for all. Crucially by not developing precision medicines we are effectively discriminating against those random individuals who do not respond well to the one size solutions.
This variation has come into sharp focus against the backdrop of the VODI-19 pandemic. Despite now having a variety of vaccines – either approved or still in development – it’s become clear very quickly that not all vaccines are as effective for all those vaccinated. Some age groups respond better to vaccine A, and others to vaccine B. Within age groups too, differences in the effectiveness of the vaccine have been reported, with the source of the difference ranging from health status to ethnicity.
Precision medicine is not just needed for pandemics, but also for treatment of more ‘regular’ ailments and diseases. Effective, targeted treatments are less wasteful, more successful and ultimately promise better patient outcomes from treatment. This allows the redirection of resources to treating more patients or researching rare on currently untreated diseases.
Looking ahead 20 years from now, precision medicine looks more affordable. Even now, as genomic technologies see huge reductions in cost and improvement in speed, together with advances in our computers’ data crunching ability, bolstered with insights from artificial intelligence that model scenarios otherwise impossible, precision medicine is an attractive proposition.