Why We Need Precision Medicine

Qimin Zhan, MD, PhD
President, PUHSC


Currently, there is dramatically increasing demand to improve human health globally. This issue has attracted huge attention from many governments and has greatly encouraged the scientific community to develop new strategies for improving quality of life. One of the important common goals in the field of health worldwide is to reduce incidence and mortality of the major chronic non-infectious diseases, such as malignant cancers, cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative diseases and diabetes. However, conventional medical approaches in both diagnosis and treatment for those diseases are thought to have reached a ceiling and have now shown limitations in conquering these health problems. In recent years, the concept and practice of precision medicine appears to offer hope for providing better medical approaches for health management, clinical diagnosis and treatment in improving quality of life.

A number of investigations by the scientists in different countries have demonstrated that development of precision medicine is able to solve the tough clinical issues, including disease prevention, earlier diagnosis, improving efficacy of targeting drugs, eliminating drug resistance, and prediction of prognosis.

  1. Precision medicine will help us better understand the disease risk and the underlying mechanism(s) of disease initiation and development. The genomic information generated through a large-scale population study would help people avoid risky factors and environments. The prevention and prediction of disease are the key to improving life quality.
  2. Precision medicine will enable us to define the molecular markers for early diagnosis, since genomic alterations would occur much earlier compared with pathological changes. Early diagnosis often gives better therapeutic outcomes.
  3. Precision medicine will build a basis for molecular classifications, which may serve for individualized diagnosis and therapy. The use of these personalized technologies to characterize and monitor changing biology in patients receiving targeted therapeutics will link biological status with therapeutic responsiveness.
  4. Precision medicine will identify the molecular targets for drug screening and discovery, which will contribute to the new generations of therapeutics targeting specific molecules. The therapeutic drugs are created on the basis of rationales linking their targets to important roles in pathogenic processes.
  5. Precision medicine requires the interactions between medicine and engineering, and bioinformatics.  

Therefore, integrative efforts among biologists, clinicians and genomic scientists, as well as big-data engineers, would be an effective working model in conducting precision medicine for customized health care, including disease prevention, clinical diagnosis, and treatment.

How Precision Medicine Will Improve Health: Big Data and the Tools Needed to Achieve Tomorrow’s Aspirations

Marschall S. Runge, MD, PhD
Executive Vice President for
Medical Affairs
Dean of the Medical School, UM

The term Precision Medicine is not only used very broadly, but also has many interpretations when applied to improving health and health outcomes.  While the field is vast, there are specific applications that impact the present and future of medicine, both individually and for the population at large.  Precision discovery, treatment and health are all areas that we are pursuing at Michigan across a variety of disciplines.  Precision discovery seeks to understand not only genetic markers and mutations, but also how environment and other factors affect gene expression over time. We are just beginning to define applications to precision treatment, to understand how particular gene codes respond to individual therapies or pharmaceuticals, for example.  Eventually, this will lead to greater strides in precision health and population management, where protocols become clinically and academically integrated into current practice and policies. 

To address the many facets of precision medicine, we have a monumental task of harnessing the data and analytical tools that can support discovery, treatment and health. The need for cross collaboration and an understanding of big data will become critical for every health care provider in the future. Information technology and systems analysis will become cornerstones of medical practice, with the key challenge of integrating this science with all of the other information that influences patient health. We believe that an immense opportunity to collaborate exists between our institutions – from molecular discovery through “big data” analysis.