Imagine going to your doctor for a health condition, such as lung cancer or a stomach ulcer, and your treatment is based on a personalized medicine plan in which every aspect is tailored toward your human genome sequence. Sounds pretty sci-fi, right? Well, it is, but it is also a reality for the future of medicine.
Opportunity for medical advancement
We aren’t yet able to receive personalized medical treatments for every ailment and condition. However, the mere concept of personalized medicine gives us hope for a better tomorrow. Ed Cone, deputy director of Thought Leadership and Technology Practice lead at Oxford Economics, highlights the hope aspect: “The ultimate gains that we’re going to see across multiple industries will expedite the delivery of hope to many more patients, and this is a good thing.” But we all want more than hope, and personalized medicine is the ultimate goal here.
What is personalized medicine?
Cone gives us a glimpse into the future. Eventually we want to be to use human genome sequencing to personalize medicine at the molecular level. The Obama Administration referred to this as ‘precision medicine’ when funding this research to the tune of $215 million last year. With continued investments like these into personalized medicine, there is hope.
However, doctors and medical professionals are already starting to use Big Data. For example, patients’ biomarkers (aka metrics) are funneled through Big Data systems to find outliers.
Moving toward personalized medicine
Advancements of this size take time and trial-and-error, but we are moving forward with research. Last year between 25% and 35% of new drugs approved were devoted to certain illnesses. This is a major flip from the old way of approving drugs in a more inclusive manner.
The market size for personalized medicine could be valued at $2.5 billion by 2022. This industry is projected to grow by 12% annually, according to Susan Rafizadeh, director of Life Sciences Marketing at SAP.
Yet, Rafizadeh points out a major disconnect in the progress. Even as massive amounts of microscopic genomic details are gathered, processing all of this data on a useable scale, while filtering out the miscellaneous, is an ongoing battle. Algorithms must be created to break down and categorize all of the pertinent information. Data warehousing and database management solutions must be utilized for this to be effective.
Marketing personalized medicine
In addition to dealing with patient data, we also need to find a way to market toward smaller, less popular medical conditions. For years now, healthcare providers and researchers have used marketing to advocate awareness and research for medical conditions. Breast cancer, thanks to Betty Ford in the 1970s, and HIV by way of MTV in the 1990s, are two great examples of this approach. While plenty of attention is given to medical research and advancement for breast cancer and HIV, what about the rare cancers out there?
Finding a way to get funding and for marketing these conditions is an issue at the moment. Rafizadeh believes that moving to an outcome-based model is well suited for this challenge. However, first the treatment must be proven a success before consumers pay for it through a life science company. This will require close communication with research and development, as well as patients, in order to hone in on the outliers of successful medicines.
Drug manufacturers will also have to change their business model. Rather than focusing on a few blockbuster drugs, companies will need to manufacture several for niche markets. In order for this to work, data sharing across the board, for everyone from patients to institutions, must be promoted. Access to data to inform drug discovery and development will be needed.
Fortunately consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable with the idea of sharing their medical data. Still, companies must learn to gather and process patient data effectively. Companies, medical researchers, and patient groups must align to commercialize personalized treatments.
One way to connect these groups in their surveys of Big Data is through data management solutions by SAP. Through proper database management and data warehousing, each player in the personalized medicine field will be successful in managing patient and medical data. To learn more about Digital Transformation in Life Sciences, click here.
This blog post was based on the SAP Game Changers radio show.