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Posted on December 2, 2008 at 7:08 AM

In the last week, I’ve read two news items that have resulted in my asking the question, “Is the era of personalized medicine really here? It would seem as though it is still a long way off–as we do not hear from physicians or anyone else for that matter that available are drugs customized to our specific genetic make-up.

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On the other hand, there are good reasons to believe that this reality is ever getting closer–and may be here faster than we think. The first clue was a press release from MarketWatch announcing the First Annual Consumer Genetics Show in Boston next year. As this meeting is described, it is the first major conference devoted to educating the public regarding personalized medicine and genomics. This show is certain to promote a wide range of direct-to-consumer genetic tests and the next wave of diagnostics and treatments for people with a wide range of diseases that we both do and do not thing of as “genetic” (even though all disease at some level is genetic change).

The second clue is that President-Elect Obama is promising to throw his weight behind personalized medicine in the upcoming administration says AP. According to Rep. Patrick Kennedy, who is sponsoring legislation to support personalized medicine efforts in the House, “The president-elect has indicated his support for both advancing personalized medicine and increasing (research) funding.” Moreover, some are even going so far as to suggest that a personalized medicine approach would (automatically) be part of any meaningful healthcare reform that attains effective treatments at lower costs.

In addition, while in the Senate, Obama sponsored a personalized medicine bill himself that promoted the R&D necessary to develop genetic tests for certain drugs and to develop a “biobank” of information for researchers and federal funding for this research as well, says AP.

With efforts to promote personalized medicine coming from industry focused at consumers as well as the federal government promoting research and development and new policy, it would seem that the era of personalized medicine is being advanced by nearly every sector. Perhaps it won’t be too long before all the hopes and possibilities of this new way of diagnosing and treating disease will not be too far away.

Summer Johnson, PhD

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