Understanding how vulnerable a person is to a virus such as SARS-Cov-2 could help scientists and researchers tackle it.
As the race for an effective vaccine to prevent Covid-19 continues, the principles of precision medicine could help, just as they helped unlock breakthrough therapeutic, diagnostic and preventive tools against cancer.
Precision medicine is a term widely used to denote the application of scientific processes, technology and evidence to improve the care of patients by optimising the therapeutic benefit of interventions to treat, manage, cure and ideally prevent human diseases.
A personalised – or precision medicine – approach can ensure the right treatment gets to the right patient at the right time.
However, adoption and access have been uneven.
To provide a foundation for a unified approach and to scale the benefits more easily, the World Economic Forum Global Precision Medicine Council co-designed the first set of precision medicine principles for policymakers.
The Global Precision Medicine Vision Statement provides a baseline for fair and equal access to personalised treatment and hopes to accelerate its use by providing examples of readymade policies and projects in place around the world.
This can serve as a first step in aligning policies with the promises of precision medicine across various constituencies in this sector, from patients to policymakers, payers and healthcare professionals.
"Precision medicine has led to remarkable advances in global health but access to treatment is not equal, ethical questions about new technologies abound and critical data is locked behind sovereign borders," said Genya Dana, Head of Precision Medicine at the World Economic Forum.
"The Precision Medicine Vision Statement should help policymakers navigate these issues and build a common international framework to accelerate and scale access like never before. The council worked for over a year to develop it."
The document identifies gaps in policies that limit progress and includes models that offer guidance regarding key elements such as:
- Building trust and engagement for direct-to-consumer genetic testing
- Increasing access to precision therapeutics in fast-track situations
- Structuring regulatory systems to innovate around genomic data privacy and ownership.
Recommendations and case studies from healthcare providers, technology experts, scientists and researchers on how to fill those gaps are highlighted throughout the report. Policymakers now have a framework for how they can start building a precision medicine programme in their country and provide equitable and effective access to cutting-edge approaches to maintain health as well as to prevent and treat disease.
"We fundamentally believe that precision medicine will greatly improve patients' healthcare outcomes," said Jonathan Arnold, vice-president, head of Oncology and Precision Diagnostics, QIAGEN.
"The vision of this council is to provide access to more patients to precision medicine, to broaden applications beyond oncology where it is focused today, to pave the way for better biomarker research and diagnostics and to bring together public and private sector partners to make precision medicine more accessible and available across the globe."
"We have already made tremendous strides in cancer treatment and research, including making significant progress in precision medicine," said Laurie H Glimcher, MD, President and CEO Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and the Richard and Susan Smith Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
"Yet, we still have a long way to go — as we are not curing most cancers. To help make global progress and continue the important research worldwide, this vision statement lays out a unified approach and guiding principles for policymakers to steer efforts in our ongoing and relentless pursuit of better treatments and cures for cancer."
Precision medicine vision statement
Precision medicine for all can be achieved if we:
- Ensure transparency around personal health data collection and use
- Prohibit personal health data being used for discriminatory purposes
- Modernize drug approval processes to enable accelerated access
- Revamp models for intellectual property and patenting of biomarkers
- Facilitate architecture for data sharing, findability, accessibility, interoperability and reusability
- Develop culturally conscious and mutually beneficial ways of engaging populations that have not traditionally been part of research