Gene Editing and Precision Medicine Make PharmaVOICE’s Top 10 Global Trends

PharmaVOICE published its 13th annual look at the top 10 global trends that will impact the life science industry in the coming year. Heraclitus’ well-known maxim, “change is the only constant in life,” certainly applies to the Year in Preview, as many of the trends in this year’s edition are brand new, including the one on gene editing.

If you’re a regular reader of our blog, you’ll remember I wrote about harnessing CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing for oncology cancer research last May. The technology is being deployed across a broad number of fronts in the fight against cancer, from uncovering the intricacies of carcinogenesis to the development of new therapies, the first of which is planned to enter clinical trials early this year. I noted at the time that CRISPR-Cas9 is radically simpler, cheaper and more potent than its predecessors. Since then, Editas Medicine has announced an exclusive licencing agreement for an upgrade to the CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technology which substitutes Cpf1 in place of Cas9. This technology is believed to be even simpler and more precise.

The keys to CRISPR-Cas9 are its simplicity and ease of use. According to Ian DeMeritt, Ph.D., head of medical strategy at Fingerpaint, “CRISPR doesn’t require complicated protocols, tools, or laboratory equipment. Part of the power of this technology lies in the fact that just about anyone with basic molecular biology training can use it.” This confers cost-savings over previous gene-editing technologies such as zinc finger nucleases and transcription activator-like effector nucleases. Melissa Wang, Ph.D., senior medical writer at Ogilvy CommonHealth Medical Education, adds that “whereas the complexity of previous genetic engineering techniques restricted them to use in select organisms such as rodents, the simplicity of this new technology means that it can potentially be used in any organism, including humans.”

Despite the rosy forecast for the potential of CRISPR-Cas9 technologies to treat cancer, life science researchers are cautious about off-target effects and unexpected adverse events. Read the full article here.

Precision medicine: ‘the future of all healthcare’

Other Year in Preview topics, while not new, have evolved over the years. This includes precision medicine, which was featured as a trend in 2015, but first hit the pages of PharmaVOICE as “personalized medicine” in 2014. Regardless of the packaging, precision medicine looks like it will have lasting power.

In January 2015, former President Barack Obama announced the Precision Medicine Initiative, which we wrote about here earlier this year. The initiative, which received a $215 million investment in the president’s 2016 budget, acknowledges the shift from treating the “average patient” to one that accounts for “individual differences in people’s genes, environments, and lifestyles.” Many cancer patients are screened for specific biomarkers today to evaluate and determine optimal treatment.

“The impact of precision medicine on drug development currently depends on whether there is a clear biology-driven target — a particular mutation or other biomarker — that can drive R&D from the start,” stated Olivier Lesueur, managing director at Bionest Partners, in the PharmaVOICE article. Our own Joy Yucaitis, Senior Director of Oncology Strategy, is optimistic about the potential for precision medicine, saying that it “creates portals for players in medical innovation, from drug development to liquid biopsy and companion diagnostics.”

Kathy Giusti, founder of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation & Consortium and a survivor of multiple myeloma herself, says “precision medicine is the future of all healthcare.” That future is increasingly being driven by patients themselves as healthcare becomes more patient centric. For more on how “precision medicine holds great promise for improving patient health outcomes,” read the article here.

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