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OICR Official Calls for More Investment in Canadian Personalized Medicine

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Canada needs to invest in genomics research and personalized medicine in order to profit from advances in this area, according to an early release commentary article appearing online today in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

In the years since the first human genome was sequenced, researchers have learned more about the genetics of rare and common diseases, gained access to new technologies for assessing the genome, and found ways to apply genomic information to clinical investigations and drug development programs, Thomas Hudson, president and scientific director at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, wrote.

But, Hudson warned, Canadians will not realize the full potential of such work unless Canada invests in genomics research programs and develops appropriate personalized medicine guidance. And, he argued, if Canada's support of academic laboratories and biotechnology companies can't compete with other regions, the country will lose commercialization opportunities.

"There is a deep concern that too few discoveries will benefit Canadian patients, unless there are transformative changes in biomedical research and health care delivery that enable quick assessment of a rapidly growing number of new diagnostics and therapeutics, clear guidelines regarding usage in medical care, enabling policies, and appropriate levels of reimbursement," Hudson argued.

Hudson, who is a co-founder of the International Cancer Genome Consortium and the Public Population Project in Genomics, noted that there are numerous opportunities for investment — from genomic research to clinical trials to population research.

To address the myriad issues surrounding genomics research funding, education, translation, and personalized medicine policies, Hudson noted that Canada might consider establishing an organization similar to the Personalized Medicine Coalition in the US. But, he said, there is no time to waste.

"There clearly is a benefit to research in personalized medicine: prevention and screening strategies targeting high-risk individuals, avoidance of serious adverse outcomes, and better matching of therapies to disease and individual profiles," Hudson wrote. "If we are slow to act, there will be economic consequences because we will lose opportunities for the development and commercialization of new products and for the creation of new jobs in Canada."

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