This week, AstraZeneca made a major announcement about its commitment to personalized medicine. AstraZeneca announced that it had established four research agreements to develop new “genetic scissors” technology that promises to allow the development of more effective and precisely targeted treatments. This is another step forward and further evidence that “precision medicine,” as president Obama called it in his recent State of the Union address, is seen as the future of drug development and medical progress. It is also further proof that global leaders in the pharma industry are fully embracing personalized medicine. We are extremely excited by these developments. Personalized medicine holds enormous promise because it has the potential to revolutionize patient care while at the same time significantly reducing costs and eliminating waste from our healthcare system. The growth of personalized medicine is becoming the biggest development in healthcare since the mapping of the human genome in 2003.
The specific technology that AstraZeneca is developing is called CRISPR, which stands for “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats.” CRISPR allows scientists to edit the genes of selected cells accurately and efficiently. The principle behind CRISPR makes a lot of sense. It will enable drug companies to “snip out” the gene responsible for a disease from the patient’s DNA, then use it to test drugs to see what works. Of course, the science behind it is much more complicated. But the bottom line is that the ability to do this represents a major step forward for personalized medicine–the kind of giant leap that could lead to major new advances, including possible cures for life threatening diseases, in years to come.
Other global pharmaceutical companies, including Novartis, are also pursuing CRISPR as a new drug development platform.
This is an incredibly exciting story and one we will be following closely as it develops.