By: Fatema Fatakdawala
Adapted from an article in Technology Review by MIT
So what does personalized medicine really mean? In essence, instead of developing drugs and looking for patients that could be cured with them, we analyze patients and make drugs based on their individual needs. As you can tell, from a marketing perspective, its a dream come true! Massachusetts-based startup, H3 Biomedicines, is implementing this plan of action by developing drugs for cancer patients based on the genetic and molecular signatures of the patient’s genome. In this way, they can target specific patient populations with superior medicines.
H3 has all the information they need available; the genome databanks of tumors from thousands of patients compiled by organizations such as The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) and the International Cancer Genome Consortium. By searching for cancer mutations in 3000 patient tumors, they narrowed down to rare anomalies shared by 1 – 10% of cancers in patient populations.
“The lesson may be that cancer drugs will not play into the pharmaceutical industry’s previous search for blockbuster drugs. There’s not some big novel cancer gene that no one had known before, one that induces 50 percent of breast cancer and 65 percent of lung cancer. That’s not what the data tells us,” says Markus Warmuth, CEO of the company.
Warmuth believes that with today’s decreasing DNA sequencing costs, H3 can take advantage and solve the patient problem. Rather than enrolling patients in a clinical trial and then determining whether they carry the right mutation targeted by a machine-generated drug candidate, patients could have their tumor’s genome sequenced and then share the information in a database available to pharmaceutical companies. “Then you could more proactively approach patients in the future, and ask them if they are willing to become part of a clinical trial as drugs are being developed for particular genetic [changes].”
Read more on Technology Review
Fatema joins the RIC team as the Communications Officer responsible for marketing, social media, event and web management. She is a graduate student pursuing her final year in the Master of Biotechnology program at the University of Toronto Mississauga.
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