Personalised healthcare, good for people, good for business

November 8, 2016
Looking at economy off strengths, personalized healthcare is an essential opportunity in the capital region (Washington DC), Aberman writes. It delivers therapeutic technologies based on a patient’s genetic and proteomic makeup, allows doctors to choose medications that work best on a specific patient, and to customize guidance on how to avoid illness and live better quality lives.

‘We have given lots of regional focus to cybersecurity, and now, personalized healthcare needs similar attention,’ says Aberman. ‘As an industry, personalized healthcare shares with cybersecurity certain growth characteristics that make it attractive for our economic development — especially because of how we now know our region innovates and grows winning businesses.’

Enough supports the conclusion that the cybersecurity industry provides opportunity for D.C. entrepreneurship. The federal government is both a primary funder of research and development and a customer for cybersecurity technologies. Entrepreneurial activity in personalized healthcare is not yet at the level of cybersecurity, but the growth opportunities are very similar.

Dynamic personalised healthcare industry

The greater Washington region has a large and growing concentration of talent to support a dynamic personalized healthcare industry. The addition of University of Virginia School of Medicine at Inova amplifies existing activities at Johns Hopkins, George Washington University and George Mason.

The federal government is a large funding source for research in personalized healthcare, with the National Institutes of Health being the best known but not sole example. And just as with cybersecurity, resolution of important policy issues is needed for the personalized healthcare industry to grow — issues such as privacy, insurability considering genetic disposition for disease, government healthcare reimbursement and allocation of healthcare resources.

More entrepeneurial activity

There are two other important reasons Aberman believes the region should applaud efforts to grow more entrepreneurial activity in personalized healthcare.

1. the conversion of research and development into commercial production occurs most frequently in healthcare, especially for university-derived technology transfer. Therefore, by focusing more regional efforts on personalized healthcare, it is more likely that local universities and supporting organizations will create exciting new businesses that will accelerate regional growth.

2. The development of cybersecurity and personalized healthcare in the same region will provide an important multiplier effect. Many of the technologies underpinning the medical wave of the future — data analytics, sensors, man/machine interface and artificial intelligence — are also highly relevant to the development of the cybersecurity industry.

PM strongly developing

Personalised medicine (PM), treatment based on the patient’s unique characteristics, is relatively new in medical society, Dutch based research institute RIVM believes. PM is strongly developing because the influence of individual characteristics on the development of disease and the efficacy of medicines is becoming more evident. Some people have, due to their genetic makeup, a higher risk of severe side effects when using specific medicines. Others are more sensitive to the efficacy of medicines and need a different dose than generally recommended.

Also, the genetic characteristics of tumours in cancer may differ per patient, which offers opportunities for clinicians to tune the therapy based on tumour characteristics and for the pharmaceutical industry to develop customized medication. An example could be medication modules that can be combined in different ways as best suited to treat a particular patient.

Though Aberman focuses one one specific region, his ideas concerning the benefits will apply to many other regions as well. Also, personalised medicine or healthcare being good for business, means that it will get more attention from these businesses. That in return will help researchers and healthcare professionals, e.g. when they are looking at funding for their personalised medicine projects.