A Note from Dr. Steven Bares

In today’s world of medicine, when most people see a doctor, a diagnosis is made and a medicine is dispensed. If I have the same illness, I will likely get the same treatment. The same story for someone else. In most cases it works pretty well, better with some than others. The trouble is, although the illness or symptoms are the same, we are each very different individuals. We react differently to every stimulus to our bodies, good or bad, because we have different metabolisms, different health histories and genetic differences of all kinds. 

In tomorrow’s world of medicine, you will see a doctor, a diagnosis will be made, and every aspect of your treatment will be customized to exactly who you are, right down to a specific gene variation. That is personalized medicine, what this issue of Bioworks Magazine is all about.

In laboratories and research centers, in clinical trials, in distribution centers throughout our metro area, the steps toward the future — a future of personalized medicine — are being taken. For most of us the changes will be subtle or even imperceptible at first. But for those in need of treatments designed just for them, any progress is monumental.

And, while on a case-by-case basis the overall community impacts are small, in the macro sense, the success of the initiatives taking place in Memphis will have a big impact on our local economy and on the overall financial status of healthcare. Consider that for drugs on the market today, on average 50 percent of the people taking them get full benefit. 

In certain categories, the differences in responses to drugs can be very large. Seventy-five percent of people respond differently to cancer drugs, according to an article in Trends in Molecular Medicine by Brian B. Spear, Margo Heath-Chiozzi and Jeffrey Huff from Abbott Laboratories in Chicago. Other common health categories also have dramatic differences in responses, the authors say: Alzheimer’s drugs at 70 percent, arthritis drugs at 50 percent, diabetes drugs at 43 percent, asthma drugs at 40 percent, and anti-depressants at 38 percent.

So the market is enormous for medicines that offer better management of chronic diseases by refining diagnosis, optimizing treatment, and avoiding unnecessary side effects.

We hope this issue helps you better understand the emerging field of personalized medicine. We also hope you will come away with an appreciation for the remarkable work being done by the experts in our community. Someday, what they do will have a big impact on you. 

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