Personalized medicine - Hype, or the future of medicine?

At this year's Executive Roundtable, analytica 2010 is taking on a highly topical subject for science and industry, i.e. personalized medicine. Is it just hype, or is it really an alternative for the future? On Wednesday, March 24, 2010 (2:00 - 3:30 p.m.), experts from the industrial and research sectors will gather at the Biotech Forum in Hall A3 to explore this question. They will include experts from the Fraunhofer Institute for System and Innovation Research (ISI), the Clinical Research and Biomarker Development Department at Roche, the Munich-based BioM Biotech Cluster Development GmbH, the Genome Research Center (GRC) in Munich and the 3rd Medical Clinic at Munich's "Klinikum rechts der Isar". They will discuss the advantages and disadvantages, risks and opportunities as well as answered and unanswered questions that pertain to personalized medicine.

The effects of medications vary from person to person. We now know that many medications do not have an optimum effect for approximately half of all patients. When it comes to rare indications, the success rate is frequently much lower. What heals one patient may fail or even lead to serious side effects in another. The reason: hardly any medications currently prescribed take into account the genetic differences between patients. In the future, modern genetic diagnostics should make it possible to customize therapies to a patient's individual genetic profile and adapt a medication's dosage to the patient's metabolism. Tailoring treatment to the patient in this manner is known as personalized medicine.

Prof. Horst Domdey, Managing Director of the BioM Biotech Cluster Development GmbH in Munich and one of the speakers at the Executive Roundtable, feels that personalized medicine has enormous potential: "Thanks to a more detailed analysis of patients and taking molecular diagnostics into account in the choice and/or development of medications, a new era has now begun, i.e. that of genome-based personalized medicine." According to Dr. Christian Meisel, Clinical Research and Biomarker Development Department at Roche, personalized medicine plays a key role in modern drug development: "Diagnostic and pharmaceutical findings are being combined in the development process for new medications. The results are helping considerably to better recognize target structures for medications or eliminating them from the beginning. This also means potentially using specific treatments that are known to be effective to cut healthcare costs."

Hype or the future of medicine?
The advantages of personalized medicine - from higher-quality care for groups of patients to reducing cases of misdiagnosis and side effects - are clear. However, the early recognition of individual risk profiles requires extensive research, and that in turn calls for new developments in diagnostics and medical biotechnology. Therefore, is personalized medicine just wishful thinking or already within reach? Dr. Bärbel Hüsing from the Fraunhofer Institute for System and Innovation Research: "To make full use of this potential in medical practice and prevent possible mistakes in development, clear-cut incentives must be established to put new biomarkers identified in research to use in clinical applications and prove their clinical validity. Sustainable business models are needed to develop new applications through synergy between research organizations and biotechnology, pharma and medical-technology companies. That calls for the ongoing development of tools for the translation process and legal framework conditions to establish incentives for the rapid transfer of innovative applications to the healthcare sector, at the same time guaranteeing quality, clinical utility, patient safety and consumer protection."

The 90-minute roundtable discussion will be moderated by Susanne Kutter, a biology graduate and Editor for Technology + Know-how at "WirtschaftsWoche" magazine: "In a "WirtschaftsWoche" survey about what trends would emerge in the new year, nine out of 17 people from the biotech and pharma sectors said "personalized medicine". That makes me all the more excited to find out what concrete projects and products the participants at this year's roundtable have to introduce – and what chances they give this new form of medicine."

The entire panel of the Executive Roundtable including photographs and the speakers' initial statements are available at