Since the sequencing of the genome a decade ago, there has been much talk of “personalized or precision medicine”. But what exactly is it, what is the potential and what will we see in our lifetime in terms of medical advances?

Modern medicines are approved and marketed to treat a particular diseased population, however we know that the success of a treatment varies from person-to-person. This is because many different factors cause a disease to manifest itself. For example, there are hundreds of known genetic mutations that can lead to the development of cystic fibrosis, a disease that primarily affects the lungs and digestive system. Treating each of the causative genetic variations, rather than the symptoms of the disease, will more specifically target an individual patient’s needs; or rather, personalized medicine will provide “the right patient with the right drug at the right dose at the right time”.1

Precision medicine does not only relate to genetically-targeted medications. The advent of the 3D printer has opened a world of opportunities for anatomically-specific medical devices and even body parts, such as grafts and robotic limbs. Limbitless Solutions, a volunteer-driven organization providing bionic arms for amputee children notes on its website that everything required to build one of their amputation aids is available for purchase on The ability to provide low-cost, high-quality medical devices is in stark contrast to the current costly model of drug and device approval, and will hopefully make healthcare solutions much more accessible in the future.

The goals of personalized medicine seem simple; to develop tools, whether they be devices or medication that treat only those who will benefit, saving both society and the individual time, money and side effects of an ineffective treatment. In follow up posts I will examine the regulatory considerations surrounding personalized medicine and what is realistic to expect over the next 10-20 years.

  1. Sadee W and Z Dai, “Pharmacogenetics/genomics and personalized medicine,” Human Molecular Genetics, 2005, Vol. 14, Review Issue 2 R207-R214