Roadmap for Implementing Personalized Medicine in Canada

Question:How do we make best use of our science and research strengths?
on 07/05/2016

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Healthcare systems worldwide are currently in a state of creative disruption and stress. On one hand, there is a revolution occurring due to extremely rapid technological advances that enable detailed molecular profiling of individuals to achieve more precise diagnoses of disease and to more accurately match therapies to the individual. This is known as personalized medicine, precision medicine, or molecular medicine. On the other hand, the healthcare system is under increasing strain as health-related spending reaches unsustainable levels due in large part to an aging population. It is imperative to align the innovative potential of personalized medicine with healthcare needs to generate benefits for patients, the healthcare system, and the economy. Efforts to achieve such alignment are gaining momentum worldwide. Health economies internationally are investing heavily in ways to implement personalized medicine because there is a clear opportunity to develop healthcare delivery systems that result in improved patient outcomes and that are more efficient and cost-effective. 

British Columbia (BC) in particular and Canada in general are well positioned to become  international leaders in the practice of personalized medicine. We have remarkable resources to build on, including a first-rate medical system, globally competitive expertise in molecular medicine technologies, and internationally recognized efforts in the implementation of personalized medicine approaches. Particular strengths include the treatment of: cancer, infectious disease, heart disease, lung disease, and neurological disorders. We also have significant advantages arising from its single-payer system, including the potential availability of extensive population-wide longitudinal healthcare data that, when analyzed, would be of major value for advancing individualized medicine.

Efforts to introduce personalized medicine in BC have so far been made through the separate efforts of a small number of clinical centres, not-for-profit organizations, private companies, and BC’s universities, partially assisted by uncoordinated support from various government agencies. This needs to change. Further advancement now requires large-scale whole system action from the provinces and federal government in order to make us a leader in patient-centric, molecularly-based personalized medicine. With BC as a starting point, we need to mobilize together – public sector, private sector, academic centres and not-for-profit agencies – to secure the resources and commitments necessary to accomplish shared goals using a coordinated approach. The time to act is now. We need to act collectively to ensure that Canada is at the forefront of molecular medicine, that we deliver the best possible healthcare to our citizens, and that we become a personalized medicine innovation hub with resulting economic benefits.

 BC Perspective:

In order to catalyze the movement towards personalized medicine in BC, the Personalized Medicine Initiative (PMI), together with partners Genome BC (GBC), Life Sciences BC (LSBC), the Centre for Prevention of Organ Failure (PROOF), the Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD), and the Life Sciences Institute (LSI) at UBC organized a Personalized Medicine Summit  held at UBC June 7-9, 2015. We have produced a document based on input from global thought leaders participating in the the Summit and in partnership with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC); "Roadmap for Brining Personalized Medicine to British Columbians". This “Roadmap” is intended to stimulate discussion regarding ways to introduce personalized, molecularly-based medicine in BC with an opportunity to expand across Canada.

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