A report released by the Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA) says that precision medicine has the potential to transform Australia’s health care system.
Precision medicine combines knowledge of a person’s unique genetic makeup, protein levels, and their environment to allow accurate disease prevention and treatment tailored to individual needs.
To date, this style of treatment has taken centre stage in well-supported clinical areas, such as cancer, and ‘rare’ single-gene disorders that are a cause of intellectual and physical disability in children.
However, The future of precision medicine in Australia
report revealed there are more opportunities to improve health for many Australians including those suffering complex disorders, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
“With careful planning, advances in precision medicine and the technologies that support it will offer great value for the health of all Australians. Precision medicine is the personalised medicine of the future,” said the chair of the ACOLA expert working group, Professor Bob Williamson.
Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel, who commissioned the report on behalf of the Commonwealth Science Council, said it was a roadmap to a better health system for the nation.
“The essence of this report is optimisation: the optimisation of public policy for individual care. It provides the intellectual framework for a healthcare revolution that will shape the lives and choices of all Australians,” Dr Finkel said.
The report sets out how precision medicine will build on the strong tradition of medical research in fields such as immunology, genetics, vaccine development, bionics and imaging in Australia. It explains where precision medicine is likely to go over the next five to ten years. The report also notes that the technologies that underpin precision medicine are also of great value to other fields such as agriculture and the environmental sciences, where there is a high level of skill and commitment in Australia.
However, the report also warns that precision medicine could lead to genetic discrimination, or continue inequality of access to health care. Ensuring benefits to everyone in Australia will require ethical thought and planned implementation.
“By working in close partnership with the Chief Scientist and government departments, and bringing together some of Australia’s best minds, from many disciplines, ACOLA is able to provide evidence on priority issues for Australia to inform policy and guide opportunities,” said ACOLA President, Professor Glenn Withers.
Owen Finegan, The Kids’ Cancer Project Chief Executive is excited by the report’s key findings.
“Many of the research projects currently funded by The Kids’ Cancer Project are in the area of personalised or precision medicine,” Mr Finegan said. “It’s encouraging to know that all the issues as well as wider benefits are being explored and addressed by an outstanding group of experts.”
“It’s particularly exciting to know that Australia has an opportunity to lead in precision medicine in terms of integration into clinical practice,” he said. “It’s a gratifying confirmation that our funding is being directed into the boldest science.”