Title: Personalized Medicine - Challenges and Opportunities for Informatics Research

Panel Discussion Time: August 3, 2010 4:00-5:00pm

Recent technical advancements have led to the availability of individual level clinical, genomic and genetic information in the form of genotype data, gene-expression data, proteomics data, metabolomics data etc. This has created the opportunity and need to develop new techniques to analyze these enormous amounts of data and thereby shed light on not only the inner-biology of the complex diseases but also ways of effective treatment. One of the important potential benefits of analyzing this wealth of information is the possibility of personalized medicine, i.e., use of detailed clinical and genomic information about a person for the detection, treatment, or prevention of diseases. The promise of computational approaches coupled with numerous advances in molecular diagnostics can help target drugs to individual patients based on biomarkers, thereby avoid adverse affects and ineffective treatments.

Although personalized medicine has a tremendous potential to advance medical treatment and the process of drug discovery, it has its own challenges, which are not only scientific but also relates to issues like policy, economics, ethics and privacy. Some of the major scientific challenges include:

  1. developing fast and automated techniques to identify clinical, genomic and genetic markers that can help uncover individual?s susceptibility to a disease or response to a drug.
  2. integrating various medical and biological data sources to identify markers that are more biologically interpretable and easy to test quantitatively.
  3. understand the biology of the markers identified to elucidate the pathways affected.
  4. understand the complexity of the diseases and the interactions among the multiple factors responsible for the disease phenotype.
  5. incorporate the heterogeneity among patients considering the differences in their environmental factors such as age, nutrition and lifestyle.
Challenges related to policy, economics and ethics include:
  1. adopting new practices in hospitals for treating and advising patients.
  2. training and educating the health care providers about new diagnostic tests.
  3. determining who will pay for the cost of individual SNP/expression profiling.
  4. privacy policies regarding who will have access to the individuals? genetic susceptibilities?, how and who will have access to the data?

Panel Format:
This panel will feature 4 to 5 panelists. Each panelist will be asked to address some subsets of the challenges identified above, which will be followed by a 20 minutes Q&A session.