“Genomic medicine is a big deal,” says Professor Brendan Frey from the University of Toronto. According to Frey, 60% of people will have a genetic disorder during their lifetime, and genomic medicine is poised to help.
Genomic medicine, often called personalized medicine, is the idea of tailoring treatments to individuals based on their specific genetic make-up.
Along with Professors Charles Boone and Fritz Roth, Frey is part of CIFAR’s genetic networks program, a collaborative project group meant to promote discussion, provide feedback, and ask the tough questions to advance research in a specific area.
“If you can put a bunch of people together in a room for a couple of days and give them perfect freedom to think about… wild new ideas, brave new ideas, then that’s a good thing,” says Boone.
To emphasize the potential power of genomic medicine, Roth gives the recent example of a clinical trial from Amgen, where a drug targeting a specific gene called PCSK9 reduced levels of bad cholesterol by extraordinary amounts and protect subjects from coronary artery disease.
“This is about a 14-year story from fundamental discovery that the gene is related to the disease to something in the clinic that’s reducing mortality from a real and common human condition,” explains Roth.
According to Frey, understanding the relationship between your genetics and disease is crucial. That’s why, two years ago, Frey started a company called Deep Genomics, which uses machine learning algorithms to predict the molecular effects of genetic variation between individuals on disease diagnostics and therapies.