Show me the Evidence

Spring 2014
Volume 2, Issue 2

[ Table of Contents ]

Guest Editorial on CIHR and Genome Canada: Partners in Personalized Medicine

Dr. Alain Beaudet, President, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and
Dr. Pierre Meulien, President and CEO, Genome Canada

The scope of health research is expanding rapidly. We are tackling increasingly complex questions about the root causes of disease, and taking a more expansive view of health. Nowhere is this trend more apparent than in the field of personalized medicine research.

Personalized medicine seeks to apply genomic technologies to identify patient groups that would benefit the most from specific prevention and treatment strategies – a process known as “patient stratification.” To achieve this kind of targeted approach to medicine, we will require expertise from many fields in addition to genomics, including computational biology, bioethics, health economics and patient advocacy. We will also need a knowledge infrastructure that can facilitate the sharing of valuable data while protecting the privacy of patients and donors. But above all, we will require a strong spirit of partnership and collaboration.

Canada has a reputation for excellence in genetic research, and CIHR supports genetic and genomic health research projects at all stages of the innovation process. Building on this solid foundation, CIHR recently launched the Personalized Medicine signature initiative. This initiative aims to identify the areas where a more personalized approach to medicine could benefit patients and the health care system. It will support work in these areas to help improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

Since 2000, Genome Canada and its regional Genome Centres have been supporting large-scale research projects with the potential for social and economic benefit for Canadians. Genome Canada has also placed particular emphasis on fostering strong partnerships between academia, government and industry to accelerate innovation in genomics.

It is only natural that Genome Canada and CIHR would come together to help move personalized medicine research to the next level. Together, the two agencies are well positioned to maximize Canada’s research strengths in the area of genomics, and ideally poised to identify and support the transformative projects that will turn knowledge into sustainable health care innovation and improved care for patients.

In 2012, Genome Canada and CIHR launched a joint funding competition to support teams that are exploring the applications of genome science in personalized medicine. The Genomics and Personalized Health competition, a Genome Canada–CIHR partnership, currently supports 17 projects with enormous potential. Can personal genomics improve the safety of prenatal testing? Can we identify biomarkers that will help guide the detection and treatment of disease? How can genomics technologies be implemented in a cost-effective manner in our health care system? These are a few of the questions that the funded research teams are exploring.

This joint initiative is just the beginning. As researchers learn more about the genetic, genomic, and even epigenetic roots of disease, greater collaboration will be necessary to put that knowledge to use. Partnerships will play an increasingly important role in the way that CIHR and Genome Canada invest in health research.

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