Precision Medicine World Conference Offers Something For Everyone
Precision health continues to take center stage in North Carolina after Duke University hosted its second annual Precision Medicine World Conference (PMWC). The event attracted more than 400 experts who represented health and biotechnology organizations from around the world.
The promise of precision medicine, first realized with the mapping of the human genome more than two decades ago, is fast becoming a reality. And it is transforming healthcare as we know it. By considering genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors that influence people’s heath, medical professionals are developing more personalized approaches to treat and prevent illness.
The PMWC convenes annually in Silicon Valley to spotlight biomedical technology and trends in precision medicine that are revolutionizing healthcare. For the past two years, PWMC also has offered an east coast conference at Duke. The 2018 event featured a broad range of topics focused on advances and challenges in precision health -- from discovery through implementation -- and its impact on patient populations.
“The conference delivered something for everyone,” said Sara Imhof, Ph.D., senior director of precision health at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center. “Duke did a great job of bringing in outstanding speakers to share their perspectives on a wide range of topics.”
Nearly 100 presentations over the two-day conference -- on topics that ranged from digital phenotyping to diversity in precision medicine -- provided fresh insights into this rapidly developing field of medicine.
Susan Craft, senior research analyst at NCBiotech, attended the event and was struck by the importance of collaboration in realizing the promise of precision medicine. “We’re each focused on our own particular niches,” she said. “But we all have to work together -- government, industry, academia, healthcare organizations and the patient population -- for doctors to best serve their patients.”
Building these types of partnerships is the primary role of the North Carolina Precision Health Collaborative. It was formed in 2016 by NCBiotech, partnering with a committed group of leaders in biotechnology, research, academia and healthcare across the state. The organization encourages the growth and development of precision health to improve outcomes for all North Carolinians and for people everywhere.
Ken Jansoki, senior director of investments at NCBiotech, said the conference made him more aware of the need for investment capital to support the growth of precision medicine, and the challenges inherent in raising funds. He highlighted three of those: the cost of technology; investors’ hesitation to commit money until life science start-ups can show success; and the difficulty of placing a value on commercial opportunities when technology and science evolve at different speeds.
Doug Edgeton, NCBiotech’s president and CEO, stressed the importance of precision medicine in improving health outcomes, while reducing costs. “I was encouraged to hear Patrick Conway of Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina talk about building a more value-based healthcare model that can be applied nationally,” Edgeton said. “NCBiotech is aligned with that goal. Our experience is that precision medicine can tremendously benefit our healthcare systems in North Carolina, and we hope we can be part of a broader discussion.”
The value of the conference was that everyone came away with new information and insights and a sense of excitement about the future of precision medicine, Imhof observed.
“It’s an area of healthcare that is broad, deep and growing,” she said. “NCBiotech is actively involved in recruiting and supporting companies that contribute to the precision health ecosystem in North Carolina. So it’s gratifying to be on the cusp of a revolution in healthcare that can make a huge difference in people’s lives everywhere.”