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Trends, Therapies, and More

Medicine is becoming a bit more social, says The Open Mind's Alexander Heffner, as shared genetic data is increasingly informing healthcare.

Maria Freire, the president of the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, tells him that there is a growing interface between biology and information technology. She adds that this move is enabling not only individuals to contribute to their own health, but also enabling researchers to spot trends.

"The power is not only for the individual," Freire tells Heffner during the latest episode of his PBS show. "The power is as a society we can look at trends, we can look at where, you know, we are finding changes and modifications … it really is a common good and it's an important pathway forward."

During the show, Freire and Heffner also touched on the importance of biomarkers for tracking disease, especially infectious disease, and for gauging whether certain therapies will benefit particular patients, particularly cancer patients.

"Sometimes we've been testing medicines and we say well, only 10 percent of the population react to this medicine, so the medicine is no good, but the truth is that the medicine is very good for that 10 percent, it just doesn't attack the other 90 percent," she says. Part of this ongoing revolution, Freire adds, is that regulators are realizing there might be a different way to think about potential medicines.

The next frontier, according to Freire, is the brain. "Our knowledge of the brain and our knowledge of brain diseases, of Alzheimer's, of situations that affect cognitive, impairment, traumatic brain injury, et cetera, it really is wide open and, it's very exciting," she says.

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