Goals for Precision Medicine

Sue Desmond-Hellmann, CEO, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation www.gatesfoundation.org, speaking at the Aspen Institute’s www.aspeninstitute.org recent “Public Health Grand Rounds” Event, emphasized the need to use precision medicine as it relates to public health to effectively achieve solutions to many serious health issues worldwide.

Dr. Desmond-Hellmann sees the use of precision medicine as developing the right drug at the right time for the right patient. Precision medicine requires gathering data, developing tools, and using technology to produce new innovative ideas. The goal is to understand what works best for patients but more importantly, scientists and medical professionals need to have a good understanding as to how patients will respond to treatments.

The doctor is very interested in the field of precision medicine, since she was trained as a cancer doctor. She realized early on that cancer therapies really can affect patients. While the treatments provide an assault on cancer, the treatments can make their life very difficult during their treatments.

The goal is to target the right drug and the right amount of the drug for the cancer patient via precision medicine so that the treatment will not affect the whole body and produce unpleasant and unwanted side effects.

Dr. Desmond-Hellmann is especially interested in seeing how precision public health medicine could determine treatments in poor and low resource areas countries capable of fighting infectious diseases like Ebola and diseases such as polio. It is important to use precision medicine to target specific treatments to wipe out specific diseases in these countries.

Precision medicine can be very helpful to treat infectious diseases if advances in genomics can be applied. Today, in some parts of the world, automated, standardized, and affordable molecular technologies are being integrated into the diagnosis, treatment, and control of infections. It is now possible to deliver more timely and precise information on pathogens as well as developing insights into their sources, spread, and susceptibility to antibiotics.

To effectively help children stay healthy, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funds the “Child Health and Mortality Prevention Surveillance” network called CHAMPS, which is a network of disease surveillance sites in developing countries. The data obtained is valuable in helping children all over Africa and Asia prevent childhood mortality and to help countries prepare for epidemics.

CHAMPS is an important tool since data can be gathered from sites faster, better, and the information really pinpoints where and why children are getting sick and dying. This data will help the global health community get the right interventions to the right children in the right place to save lives. The network will also provide capacity training in the event of an epidemic.

The doctor believes that we not only need to obtain new data from many sources but also develop networks so that data can be shared not only locally but also with the global community. However, using big data and tracking information can raise privacy issues so the right level of protection is needed.

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