The Case for Personalized Medicine: Interview with Edward Abrahams of PMC

The third edition of The Case for Personalized Medicine (PDF) was released a week ago and I had a chance to do an interview with Edward Abrahams, Ph.D. of the Personalized Medicine Coalition.  The new edition is a primer that highlights the progress in the field of personalized medicine for policymakers, researchers, and business leaders.

  • How many prominent examples of personalized medicine might we have next year?

It’s impossible for us to know how many prominent examples of personalized medicine products will be available a year from now, but we project that the rapid acceleration in the number of new products coming onto the market will continue. When we published the first edition of The Case for Personalized Medicine in 2006 – there were only 13 available products; when we published the second edition in 2009, there were 37 products available, and now, in 2011, there are 72.

  • Sometimes lecturers use two numbers: 7 billion and 3 billion referring to the mass sequencing of everyone’s DNA in the world. When could it happen, what is your estimation?

We understand there to be 3 billion SNPs.

  • It seems now from gene expression profiling we are moving towards RNA sequencing and next generation sequencing. What do you think is the next trend in research?

Both research and clinical care will benefit as the cost of whole genome sequencing declines at a rate dramatically more quickly than Moore’s Law would predict inching towards the $1,000 mark. The $1,000 price point is critical because it will make whole genome sequencing comparable in cost to existing medical tests thereby opening up new opportunities for researchers to understand the genetic underpinnings of wellness and disease and providing clinicians with a valuable tool for assessing patient health.

  • It is often written by economists that while personalized medicine costs more, it is more cost-efficient. How can we find the balance between having a well designed personalized medicine concept in healthcare and checking everyone’s samples for random biomarkers?

This is a good question. Evidence is needed to show the clinical and economic utility of anything that becomes part of the standard of care. But personalized medicine will be most successful where it makes health care more efficient by enabling the matching of treatment to patient to maximize therapeutic benefits and reduce adverse events, not where it imposes a new one-size-fits-all guideline on physicians to test the entire population for a random biomarker.

  • What are the goals and planned activities of the Personalized Medicine Coalition for the next few years?

The Personalized Medicine Coalition is an education and advocacy organization comprising more than 200 member institutions. In keeping with our educational mission, we will plan conferences and develop new documents along the lines of The Case for Personalized Medicine to educate policymakers, business leaders, and others needing to understand personalized medicine and the opportunities it offers to improve patient care while making the health care system more efficient. We will also work with our members to understand and remove barriers to personalized medicine by advocating for changes to health care policy in the United States and around the world.