Call to incentivise move to personalised medicine

Thursday 05 December 2013 16.26
The call was made at an event in UCD
The call was made at an event in UCD

The co-founder of a company that provides a low-cost genetic testing service has called for a change to the economic incentives offered to drug manufacturers and insurance companies to encourage them to embrace personalised medicine.

Linda Avey, co-founder of 23andMe, also said society needs to learn about how to put buffers on private medical information, to stop the details leaking out to third parties.

Ms Avey was speaking at University College Dublin, where she was attending the opening of a new building for Systems Biology Ireland.

SBI is an academic research centre which uses computers and modern biology to understand diseases such as cancer and develop diagnostics and therapies that are tailored to the individual patient.

Ms Avey said it was her belief that we are all entitled to information about our physiological make-up and our health.

But she added that ways had to be found to prevent that information from inadvertently getting into the hands of others.

Linda Avey co-founded 23andMe, a US-based company which for $99 claims to be able to map an individual's genome using a saliva swab provided by the person.

Based on the genetic results, the company claims to be able to give information to the individual about their health risks, their risk of passing on inherited conditions to children, and the kind of drugs that they would likely best respond to.

Ms Avey left 23andme several years ago to pursue other research.

Last week, the Google-backed company announced it was to cease marketing its home testing-kit, because the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had filed a warning letter.

The FDA had expressed concern that 23andMe had failed to provide adequate information to support the claims made in its advertising material.

The company responded by saying it stood behind the data it returns to customers - but recognised that the FDA needed to be convinced of the quality of the data as well.

Speaking in UCD this morning, Ms Avey said the era of personalised medicine posed huge challenges, but that she saw them as opportunities.

She said personalised medicine, which aims to tailor medicine specifically for each patient based on their needs and genetic make-up, provided an opportunity for patients to have their voices heard in medicine.

She said personalised medicine should be better thought of as contextualised health, where the context of a patient's treatment is taken into account, including their genetic profile, environment, other illnesses and other factors.

Systems Biology Ireland is located in the new Charles Institute Building in UCD, which was funded by the college and the City of Dublin Skin and Cancer Hospital Charity.

SBI comprises a team of more than 80 researchers from 20 countries.

Keywords: 23andme
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