I think that most everyone will agree that our health care system is broken. Insurance premiums and overall health care costs continue to rise, while for many the quality of care goes down. In this age of exponentially improving technologies and the opening of vast vaults of knowledge through biomedical research, this simply is unacceptable. We need to catalyze a revolution in health care. We, at Tomorrow’s Health see this revolution as a drastic change in mindset: from generalized to personalized medicine, and from reactive to preventive medicine.
In early 2008, I attended a 1-day conference held by the Drug Information Association (DIA) in Bethesda, MD. I was a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, working on malaria vaccine and drug development at the Naval Medical Research Center (NMRC) and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR). One topic presented at the conference was the use of human genetic information to help medical professionals make drug treatment choices. During this presentation, a prediction was made that within 5 years, the cost to sequence an entire human genome would dip below $1,000.
It was at this point that the vision came to my mind. I imagined a patient going into their clinic, where the clinic not only possessed the patient’s medical history, but also his/her entire genome sequence. Medical providers would then be enabled to use each patient’s genome sequence to “personalize” his/her medical care. I thought that as new research became available, it could immediately be applied to each patient’s known genome sequence. This would allow continuous real-time updates of each patient’s “personalized” medical record.
If you were to compare the full genome sequences of two completely different, unique individuals, you would find that they share 99.9% of their DNA sequence. It’s the other 0.1% that makes you and all those around you unique. And it’s that 0.1% that will be used to “personalize”, or customize medicine to you. This personalized medicine will help doctors make more accurate and timely diagnoses, tailor more effective treatments for conditions that you have, and (I think the most exciting) discuss with you some of the diseases your genetics predisposes you to getting in the future – and determine things that you can do to prevent these diseases BEFORE you get them.
Currently, it costs approximately $5k to sequence an individual’s entire genome. And by the time you read this article, it may cost significantly less. By the time it dips below $1k per genome, it will realistically be available to all – and eventually covered by health care insurance. The time to prepare for and invest in this personalized medicine concept is now, so that we can help shape the health care environment now and for the future of our children and grandchildren.
Over the past years and after many discussions with friends and colleagues, I have added to my vision the idea that this “personalized” practice of medicine could and should be focused on preventive (vice reactive) measures. Though the information within the genome certainly can be used in typical reactive medicine, the benefits will more completely be realized in preventive practices.
Over a year and half ago, I began writing up a business plan for this personalized, preventive medicine idea. At the time, there were only a handful of companies that were offering relatively large-scale DNA testing (e.g., 23 and Me). Since then, companies that provide this type of testing have begun to “come out of the woodwork”.
Granted, these are small, specific genetic tests, but the public awareness of these is growing astronomically. For example, Angelina Jolie, the famous American actress, recently tested positive for a mutation in the brca1 gene – a mutation that drastically increases the chances of getting breast or ovarian cancer later in life. Her mother died of breast cancer at age 56. As a preventive measure, she chose to have a double mastectomy.
The Way Forward
Personalized, preventive medicine is the health care of the future. But this will require a revolution in the current mindset. Once established, TOMORROW’S HEALTH will seek to advertise not just their business, but their vision to the nation and eventually to the world. Due to the sensitive nature of personal genetic information, the federal government will be required to enact laws and create regulations that protect this information. And instead of denying coverage, insurance companies will pay for this preventive medicine, knowing that it will ultimately save significant amounts of money by delaying or even preventing debilitating diseases for which supportive care is extremely expensive (e.g., cancer therapy).
Join us – help us catalyze this revolution in health care, making available the incalculable benefits of personalized, preventive practices in medicine to everyone! Visit us at http://www.tomorrowshealth.net/campaign-tomorrows-health/.