Insight Article

Delivering The Next Generation Of Precision Therapies

By Tia Byer |
09 December 2021
How do we implement the next generation of precision medicines and therapies to optimise patient experience? We sat down with senior representatives from Novartis, Merus, Labcorp, and Simcere Pharmaceuticals to discover the latest industry insights.

Precision medicine is a rapidly expanding global market and in 2020 alone was valued at 52.4 billion USD. Technological advances in characterising patients’ genomic and cellular profiles, and optimisation of cancer biology have been key drivers in such market growth. The value of precision medicine is forecasted to increase at a CAGR of 11.5% between 2021 and 2027 to reach 112.8 billion USD. Key players in the field include Merus, Labcorp, Hoffman La Roche, Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc, and Quest Diagnostics, to name a few.

Precision Medicine: Opportunities for Patient-Centred Care

Over the past couple of years, the adoption of precision medicine has radically altered the oncology and pharmaceutical landscape for the better. In its targeted and tailor-made approach to therapeutics, precision medicine can prevent or delay treatment options with less favourability and tolerability profiles. Other advantages include its ability to facilitate patient-focused care and rehabilitation. Thomas Hach, Executive Director Patient Engagement at Novartis, explains how “precision medicine provides an important opportunity to include the patient’s voice and perspective into treatment decisions”. He continues by stating the importance of “not forgetting the human side of medicine and at Novartis, we firmly believe that if we keep the patient and the patient experience at the forefront of our decision making, we will produce better therapeutic opportunities”.

Delivering The Next Generation Of Precision Therapies: The Route to Optimisation

Whilst individualised care provides a preferable treatment technique for much of the population, particular challenges remain. Precision medicine, by its very nature, raises questions about ethical, social, and legal issues. This is because it relies upon data storage and sharing, and currently, there is a lack of genetic literacy available to obtain informed consent. Therefore, precision medicine can have serious implications for patient privacy. In addition to this, numerous hurdles are facing its widespread adoption. We delve into some of the cutting-edge strategies industry leaders use to help deliver the next generation of precision therapies.

1.) Automating Processing Technologies: AI and Machine Learning

For Rachid Bouzid, Translational Scientist at Merus, a key limiting factor in the optimisation of oncology precision medicine “is the small amount of people who can actually handle the amount of data that comes forth from the genetic testing”. Procedures such as genome and exosome sequencing are particularly complex and require the complete profiling of patients. What’s more, genetic testing can be a lengthy and labour-intensive process. Xiaofeng Zhao, Senior Director of Discovery Biology at Simsere Pharmaceuticals, attests to this and explains how “from the hardware perspective, it will be integral to interpret and process data as quickly as possible”. A clinician who will understand and interpret the relation between genomics and implementation of these mutations is also paramount.

With the technology available today, however, the industry can overcome this challenge, primarily through automation and machine learning. Rather than recruiting data handlers, pharmaceutical companies should embrace a digitised infrastructure and use AI to automate the translational step between the basic science of a particular genetic mutation and what it means for the patient and what information to pass on to the patient. Using AI diagnostics also provides a workflow solution to clinical-ethical considerations whereby clinicians can automate decisions about at what stage and with what specific sequence information is medically relevant and thus needs to be shared with the patient. Xiaofeng identifies “the functionality of data science and the need to capture meaningful data as a key means of achieving precision medicine”.

2.) Reducing Cost: A Pathway to Widespread Adoption

The success of precision therapies relies heavily upon their widespread adoption. A bottleneck to achieving this, however, is the high costs associated with the approach. As Tuc Ahmad, Scientific Director of Companion Diagnostics and Development at Labcorp, puts it, “technology in itself is not going to provide the entire answer when it comes to delivering the next generation of precision medicine”. He continues, “it is a very expensive route to go down, and as an industry, we need to think about whether we are making the best use of our resources”. Precision medicine is often more expensive than conventional approaches to oncology as the cost of individual companion diagnostics tests are exponentially pricier than regular screening.

Rachid Bouzid also explains how “when you begin asking questions about just how many biomarkers have to be combined to get an accurate prediction, precision medicine soon becomes very expensive”. Nevertheless, there is an economic case for precision medicine as a targeted and accurate approach to improving treatment eliminates the costs of a trial-and-error process. As Tuc Ahmad highlights, “perhaps the biggest thing we can do as a nation to move the needle on the cost of healthcare and improve health is to prevent disease, which is precisely what precision medicine offers”. By implementing tailor-made therapies, precision medicine can reduce the costs of ineffective treatments. Reimbursement schemes to offset high price tags and improve the economic value of the approach can also pave the way to the widespread adoption of precision therapy.

Forward Outlook:

Precision medicine has enormous potential as a predictive and preventative means of treatment. Its success hinges upon the ability to digitise and automate processing workflows. With the industry looking to optimise these infrastructure considerations, it will only be a matter of time to deliver the next generation of precision medicine. Making precision medicine more affordable will help open its opportunities to a larger and resolve patient inequalities. At Oxford Global, we look forward to the impact precision therapies will create on the medical landscape.

Want to find out more about the latest Biomarker news? Register now for our February 2022 Biomarkers & Precision Medicine US Congress to discover the latest technologies and novel biomarkers driving forward translational research and precision medicine.

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