by Supratik Paul, AVP Research
In the past decade, precision medicine has significantly disrupted the traditional diagnosis and treatment approach toward patient care. It is spearheading to change an individual’s outlook toward healthcare. With technological advancement for biomedical analysis, novel tools to provide a new meaning to large data sets, and human genome sequencing, precision medicine will amass the power to predict the likelihood of an individual’s susceptibility to illness, thereby enabling them to make the right decisions on their health.
The Precision Medicine World Conference (PMWC) held at the Silicon Valley from January 20-23, 2019, provided the perfect platform to showcase the latest advancements in healthcare technology and the amalgamation of knowledge between different sectors in the healthcare industry. The four-day conference attracted distinguished leaders, research pioneers, and medical professionals from across the world. Over the years, the event successfully registered participation from approximately 2,950 companies with a footfall of 14,000 attendees.
The PMWC 2019 showcased novel concepts and cutting-edge technologies that are enabling the changes in the global healthcare industry such as CRISPR (gene-editing) and CAR T-cell therapy, etc. through its various events viz. panel discussions, product launches, presentations, awards and accolades, and capability showcase by numerous industry players.
The conference recognizes preeminent contributors in the field of precision medicine through various awards and accolades. PMWC Luminary Award is one of the most distinguished awards amongst the various awards conferred at the PMWC conference. This year the ‘PMWC Luminary Award’ was presented to Massachusetts-based biochemist Feng Zhang (for leading the development of CRISPR and optogenetics), Washington DC-based health advocate Sharon Terry (for providing a platform for individuals to access and share health data), and Pennsylvania-based immunologist and oncologist Carl June (for developing the world’s first gene-based cancer therapy).
The rich participation of industry players in the conference provided a flourishing ecosystem for exchange of information, networking, product launches, showcasing of latest developments across technologies, and capability showcase across various facets of precision medicine.
5 Top Trends that are Advancing Precision Medicine
The conference identified five key trends through various panel discussions and presentations that are instrumental for the successful adoption of precision medicine and are as follows:
- Drug development driven by artificial intelligence and machine learning: With the evolution of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), and the high insurgence of boutique start-ups, the healthcare industry will witness the development of several key focus areas. Some of these major focus areas are advancement in technologies that provide computational insights predicting clinical trial success; acceleration in the process of patient diagnosis and treatment; and expansion of the infrastructure that made AI and ML a reality. Apart from these, other focus areas that the industry will witness are real-world evidence for clinical decision making, application of big data, precision imaging, and AI-driven clinical trial designs. Moreover, ethical and application-based challenges are looming over patient data privacy and real-life AI application, which have forced governments to formulate guidelines for safe usage of these technologies.
- Innovation in immunotherapy: Ground-breaking hematologic cancer immunotherapies such as in-situ vaccination, neoantigen cancer vaccines, innovative clinical-grade biomarkers and genetically engineered T cell for enhanced cancer therapy are some of the technologies which are spearheading the treatment of several types of cancers, including solid tumors.
- Increased adoption of big data analytics: Big data analytics has paved way for innovative data gathering and sharing platforms such as LunaDNA. The platform is a combination of genomic with microbiome data for a comprehensive outlook on diseases. Also, ethical nuances related to patient data sharing and next-generation data collection have empowered personalized medicine.
- Advances in genomic medicine: Ideas around population-based biobanking, an introduction of a multiomics database, DNA tests for cancer screening etc. were some of the key trends highlighted in the conference. Trends pertaining to opportunities in China for the development of comprehensive next generation sequencing (NGS)-based oncology assays and the importance of genetic counseling to understand the interpretation of raw data were also discussed.
- Inception of second-generation NGS technologies: Democratization and globalization of NGS for CDx, have led to a visible boost to precision medicine. With genomic sequencing becoming relatively mature, challenges pertaining to regulatory frameworks, reimbursements, and care pathways are also gaining momentum.
These trends highlight the fact that the concept of precision medicine is gaining global ground and has the potential to revolutionize the healthcare industry. Thus, it is crucial for all its stakeholders including governments, private sector, and other beneficiaries to collaborate and fund advancements in precision medicine for a more secure and healthy future.