Personalized medicine becoming a reality

A 2009 survey of BC physicians revealed that nearly 80 percent had little or no knowledge of clinical genomics. Fortunately, many of them were interested in knowing more — and the MSFHR-funded BC Clinical Genomics Network has stepped up to the challenge.

One of five platforms funded through MSFHR's Technology/Methodology Platform program in 2007, the BC Clinical Genomics Network (BCCGN) conducted the survey to better understand the genomics — related education needs of physicians (genomics is the study of the collective genetic material in an organism — or its genome). Meeting these needs is integral to the work of the BCCGN, which encourages clinical researchers to take advantage of the genomics technology available at BC's research institutions. The BCCGN's goal is to help physicians and other clinicians develop clinical applications for genomics and genetics in their practices to improve patient care.

By all accounts, the BCCGN is well on its way towards reaching that goal. Their conference earlier this year, Genomics: Today and Tomorrow's Medicine, received rave reviews. The over 200 delegates rated it more than four out of five for overall satisfaction and 96 percent plan to attend next year's event. The reason? Clinicians are making the connection between the lab and the bedside, and they want more.

"It allows one to think about more adequate profiling of one's patients so that they can receive the most suitable drug at the right time," says Dr. Michael Hayden, UBC Professor, Medicine/Medical Genetics and Co-Leader, BCCGN. "We all know it's far better and more cost effective to prevent disability than to treat it after it occurs."

Genomics provides a foundation for developing this idea of personalized medicine, which helps reduce adverse events during treatment and the onset of preventable disabilities. In this area, the BCCGN is recognized nationally and internationally, according to Hayden.

Hayden credits MSFHR with helping the BCCGN realize such success. "This was a dream and the Michael Smith Foundation helped make it a reality," he says. "They saw the potential and invested appropriately — and without them, this wouldn't have happened."