The Next Healthcare Breakthrough: Custom Drugs

Personalized medicine will revolutionize the medical field with a huge array of technologies.

We know that many current treatments work on some people, yet not others. Some drugs are safe for many people, but have dangerous side effects for others. This is because all of us have individual differences in our genetic code based on heredity and environment. Even slight differences can lead to very different reactions to medications.

This has created serious regulatory problems. Drugs are denied regulatory approval not because they do not work, but because some fraction of the population suffers adverse effects. As a result, we are often denied incredibly effective therapies simply because they are not universally effective.

This shockingly primitive state of affairs exists because, until very lately, we simply have not had the tools to get to the genetic roots of disease. Scientists and pharmaceutical companies haven’t precisely known how a particular drug’s chemical profile interacts with a genetic one. Medical science, in turn, has been unable to tailor drugs to work with a specific genetic makeup.

This is rapidly changing. Just a few short years ago, the human genome was first mapped. The genome, as you know, is the entire collection of genetic code that defines us at a biological level. Now scientists are studying single genes and their individual expressions.

It is meaningful, from the investor’s perspective, that Dr. Francis Collins, the head of the Human Genome Project, has just been selected by the Obama administration to head up the National Institutes of Health. Collins has long been a prominent champion for using the knowledge gained from human genome to accelerate personalized medicine.

Incidentally, Collins has stated that genomics is currently where the computer industry was back in the 1970s — at the beginning of a technological revolution. While he was speaking in scientific terms, we should remember that the ’70s was also the right time to begin investing in a diversified portfolio of breakthrough computer technologies. Those who did so, despite claims that it was too risky or early, were made rich.