PMLS 2018

Precision Medicine as a New Paradigm in Drug Development


Over 2000 years ago, Hippocrates and the ancient Greeks believed that humors (bodily fluids) determined an individual’s behavior and disposition (On the Nature of Man, attributed to Hippocrates, 4th century BC). Although subsequent advances in genetics and biochemistry have disproved this, the powerful idea that our blood and tissues may hold the keys to health and disease has taken root. What is probably the first modern biomarker report was published in 1848 by the English physician and chemist Henry Bence Jones, who discovered that immunoglobulin light chains could be detected in the urine of about three-quarters of patients with multiple myeloma (Bence Jones, 1848). This remarkable discovery and many others like it have formed the basis of a modern field known as Precision Medicine, whose core mission is to diagnose illness faster and more reliably and to treat patients more effectively. In a personalized way, this means recommending an intervention for some diagnosed patients and recommending against the same treatment in others, thereby increasing the quality of health care across a population and the efficacy of a health system.

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