Personalized Medicine Initiative Launched

Recently I was speaking with a friend about the future of healthcare marketing who told me there will be none. For-profit companies are pioneering new technologies that will enable each of us to move beyond the often compulsive visits we make to Dr. Google. Instead, our doctors will conduct genetic and blood tests when we visit and give us access to this information as well as the capacity to explore how others in linked tech networks, who share our genetic or risk backgrounds, are responding to specific drugs and treatments. Kids may be addicted to FaceBook and MySpace but I predict this sort of personalized healthcare data will have large numbers of adults spending massive time on these sites. Healthcare marketers won't be able to convince us to take their sleeping pill just by pounding us with cuddly commercials of sleep clouds.

On a related note, I came across this announcement from the Foundation Center Online about the The Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust in Scottsdale, Arizona, and the Phoenix-based Flinn Foundation who have pledged a total of $45 million for a global initiative to develop personalized molecular diagnostics to treat disease based on a patient's unique physiological makeup.

The Partnership for Personalized Medicine, to which Piper will commit $35 million and the Flinn Foundation $10 million, will be led by Dr. Lee Hartwell, a Nobel laureate and director of the Seattle-based Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, a leader in using molecular diagnostics for the early detection and clinical management of cancer and other diseases.

The initiative's cornerstone will be the Virginia G. Piper Center for Personalized Diagnostics, which will draw upon the strengths of both TGen and the institute. Each will contribute laboratory space to the effort as well as expertise in bioinformatics and high-performance computing, nanotechnology and imaging, robotics, protein analysis, and computing. In addition, ASU's Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering will provide supercomputing resources.

According to Flinn Foundation president and CEO John Murphy, approximately 50 percent of the Flinn Fund for Arizona Proteomics Research will support research collaborations to leverage the state's significant institutional resources in the proteomics field, while the rest will be used to fund the creation of a pro- teomics production facility focused on discovering new proteins for the development of diagnostic tests for patients with cancer or other illnesses. A breakthrough in this area could ultimately lead to earlier disease detection and more precise disease management.

"The [Trust] made this investment because Dr. Hartwell has a vision to transform the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disease," said Piper Trust president and CEO Dr. Judy Jolley Mohraz. "Scientists, clinicians, engineers, statisticians, insurers, and regulators will work collectively to make health care more targeted and affordable."

It doesn't say anything like my friend was mentioning about letting patients have access to this data, but it definitely seems like a philanthropy-related component of that road map. Anyone else know more?

Susan Herr

Posted at 8:57 AM, Nov 01, 2007 in Health | Permalink | Comments (1)


Back in April, The Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies made a $12.5 million leadership grant to help launch the Institute for Personalized Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in NY. The inherent appeal of gene-based medicine to foundations is clear: Philanthropy thrives on innovation. In no other sector are the tolerances for risk and reward so high. Personalized medicine is something that will fundamentally alter the medical industry and will forever redefine the role of ubiquitous players such as insurance and pharmaceutical companies. I believe that an investment in personalized medicine will have exponentially greater social benefit in the coming decades. This is especially valid as the normal economic forces (blockbuster drugs; managed care) run counter to the economics of personalized medicine. Suffice it to say, this is a trend that we will see much more of in the coming years.

Posted by: Jeffrey Solomon