Precision medicine is much more than genetics

Drug Development

Ricki Lewis, PhD: When President Obama uttered the words “Precision Medicine” in the state-of-the-union address, I scoffed at a politician’s finally noticing a field that’s been around for decades: medical genetics. Was it another case of rebranding, as chemistry has morphed into nanotech? But the definition of Precision Medicine that has emerged is, well, precise: “An approach to disease treatment and prevention that seeks to maximize effectiveness by taking into account individual variability in genes, environment, and lifestyle.”

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Brave new world of biotech: Push one to create life; push two to create alien life


“We’re considering the possibility that you can write software for living things with bio-code (aka DNA).”

May was a good month for miracles.  During these first weeks in May, two separate teams working at two separate institutions announced that when it comes to creating life from scratch, well, there are a couple of new gods in town.



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FDA orders 23andMe to stop selling genetic tests

23andMe has been advertising that its tests offer diagnostic information for a variety of human conditions.

23andMe, the pioneering genetic screening service, has been told by the FDA that it “must immediately discontinue” marketing of its Personal Genome Service (PGS) until it receives FDA authorization.



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The future of medicine is wearable, implantable, and personalized

As doctors and scientists continue to make huge leaps in terms of genome sequencing and scanning devices, everything about your medical treatment is going to change.

There are approximately 7 billion human beings on Earth and each of us is special and unique. We are the walking, talking instantiation of the 3 billion instances of four nucleotides (abbreviated GATC) that constitute our unique genome’s DNA. Just as important, the interplay of that DNA with the environment and our individual lifestyles determines our susceptibility and predisposition to diseases.



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Four statements about the future by John Smart

Virtual assistants will be useful for nany of us by the early 2020’s

Here are four interesting statements about the future:

1. Chemical brain preservation is a technology that may soon be validated to inexpensively preserve the key features of our memories and identity at our biological death.
2. If either chemical or cryogenic brain preservation can be validated to reliably store retrievable and useful individual mental information, these medical procedures should be made available in all societies as an option at biological death.
3. If computational neuroscience, microscopy, scanning, and robotics technologies continue to improve at their historical rates, preserved memories and identity may be affordably reanimated by being “uploaded” into computer simulations, beginning well before the end of this century.
4. In all societies where a significant minority (let’s say 100,000 people) have done brain preservation at biological death, significant positive social change will result in those societies today, regardless of how much information is eventually recovered from preserved brains.



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DNA sequencing is improving faster than Moore’s law


The cost of sequencing genomes has declined 50% faster per year than the cost of computers, since 2007. Declining sequencing costs have been due to a combination of Moore’s law and massive scaleups. An author and an expert on the life sciences industry, Juan Enriquez, runs a venture capital fund that invests in life science startups that could produce useful products and treatments within the next five years.  He also engages in more long-term forecasting. In an interview for Next Big Future, Enriquez discusses the exponential rate of change for biotechnology with Sander Olson. Enrique also discusses why he believes that the changes wrought by the biosciences during the next three decades could surpass the industrial revolution in importance. (video)


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Rapid DNA sequencing could soon become a routine part of your medical record

DNA sequencing

The latest technological competition involves the idea of threading a single strand of DNA through a tiny, molecular-scale eyelet known as a nanopore.

Rapid DNA sequencing can provide enormous amount of information previously sequestered in the human genome’s 3 billion nucleotide bases and soon may become a routine part of each individual’s medical record.

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How Private Is Your DNA?

DNA privacy

How is my DNA NOT private?

Unlike the contents of your inbox, bank statement, or Facebook timeline, your DNA quite literally defines you. It’s strange, then, that in an age where sequencing the genome is becoming trivial, we don’t give a second thought about the privacy issues surrounding the chemicals that make us who we are.

In fact, most states in the US have absolutely no laws whatsoever to govern surreptitious genetic testing. If that surprises you, it gets worse. Back in 2006, the particularly forward-thinking state of Minnesota passed a law demanding that written consent had to be obtained for collection, storage, use, and sharing of genetic information. In 2011, however, the Minnesota Supreme Court judged that the state’s own department of health was in violation of that very law.

So, quite literally millions of US citizen have their DNA records stored on databases, and there are few laws governing what’s done with the data. Something has to be done about that—but it’s not necessarily as easy as it sounds.

Clamp down on DNA privacy…

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The health insurance industry could be destroyed by a $1000 test

DNA test

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act bars insurers from denying coverage or raising premiums on individuals who show a genetic predisposition toward particular diseases.

The cost of sequencing an individual genome will soon be less than $1,000, reports the New York Times. That’s not nothing, but given what most health care costs, it’s not much. And it means that an individual mandate — or something much like it — is inevitable.

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DNA could be the next frontier for hackers and biological warfare


Synthetic biology will lead to new forms of bioterrorism.

Computer-designed viruses that cure disease, new bacteria capable of synthesizing an unlimited fuel supply, new organisms that wipe out entire populations and bio-toxins that target world leaders may sound like devices restricted to feature-film script writers, but it is possible to create all of these today, using the latest advances in synthetic biology.


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