Tailored healthcare: How routine DNA testing will supercharge the life science sector

With personalised healthcare fast becoming a reality thanks to advances in DNA testing, every life sciences business will need to ensure they have strong sales & marketing teams to communicate to customers the paradigm shift that will take place across their market sectors. Locating sales & marketing executives with the specialist knowledge needed will become a commercial imperative.

Personalised medicine will disrupt the entire healthcare industry with new products and services that place the individual at the centre of their treatment. The question facing businesses and other organisations across life sciences is: how do they ensure they can understand, develop and deliver these next-generation treatments?

How routine DNA testing will supercharge the life science sector

A change in approach

At last year’s Arab Health conference, Princess Haya bint Hussein, wife of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, said: "It is a move away from a 'one-size-fits-all' approach to treatment and care to one which uses emergent approaches in diagnostic tests, functional genomics, molecular pathways and real-time data analysis to tailor make the treatment to fit the individual patient needs."

Governments and their healthcare advisers are increasingly focusing on how healthcare can be better targeted, which increases success rates and reduces costs. In her annual report, the UK’s chief medical officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, highlights how genomic or DNA medicine could revolutionise entire healthcare services in every country:

“Genomic medicine has the potential to save costs and improve quality of care by targeting treatment, maximising benefit and reducing side effects. The new science of genomics is opening up better diagnoses for patients, better and safer treatments, opportunities for screening and the possibilities for prevention. These will all improve as we learn more about genomes and their relation with illness and treatment response. We now talk about ‘personalised’ or ‘stratified’ medicine and what we really are trying to deliver is both diagnosis and treatment related to the genomic signature of a particular patient.”

A good example is a three-in-one blood test that is now available and can detect in men whether they have a defective BRCA gene, which is linked to prostate cancer and could be treated with PARP inhibitors. The early diagnosis of cancer is clearly a focus for targeted medicine. Professor Johann de Bono, who led the team at the Institute of Cancer Research in London told The Guardian newspaper: “Not only could the test have a major impact on treatment of prostate cancer, but it could also be adapted to open up the possibility of precision medicine to patients with other types of cancer as well.”

Every life sciences professional will see their sector rapidly change and being at the forefront of these changes will make them highly desirable to many businesses. Those organisations need to react now to ensure they have the personnel available to take their products and services to these new markets and the patients who will be waiting.

Personalised healthcare

The market for personalised healthcare services and products, including targeted therapeutics, is set to explode. Data from Kelly Scientific states this is currently worth USD$113 billion and will reach USD$162 billion by 2021. MarketsandMarkets places the value of just the genomics sector at USD$20 billion by 2020.

Centres of excellence are already appearing. Last year saw the opening of the DNA Health Center for Integrative Medicine, Wellness & Bio-Aesthetics at the Talise Spa at Jumeirah Al Qasr, Madinat Jumeirah. This is a reaction to the increase in wellness tourism. According to a Global Wellness Institute Report, in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), wellness tourism revenues grew 6% annually in 2013-2015 from $7.3 billion to $8.3 billion.

Will DNA testing become as commonplace as CT or MRI scans? Those in key geographical areas, including centres such as Dubai, will be the first to take advantage of genomic medicine and become the initial genomic generation. For these people, personalised healthcare will become as everyday as pharmaceutical treatment is today – but with vastly improved outcomes. Already there are specialist clinics that offer DNA testing for citizens in Dubai and other regions.

Princess Haya bint Hussein concluded: "In the UAE, improving our nation's healthcare is one of our top priorities. However, our rapidly growing population, with unique genetic make-up, changing demographics and lifestyle habits, continues to present us with challenges. We are still bombarded with new cases of diabetes, heart disease and cancer that make us wonder that perhaps we need to do more than just have universal healthcare provision, with one size fits all? Perhaps it is time to get personal?”

What should be clear to every professional across the life science industry is that personalised diagnostics and treatment will rapidly expand beyond its current focus of oncology. Widening the application of increasingly diverse and accurate genomic-based testing is the challenge for all in healthcare provision. Businesses must recruit people with the skills to understand these new technologies, how they can be applied – and how to communicate these fast-evolving capabilities.