Health, or the absence of health, significantly influences individual and collective abilities, socio-economic outcomes, and, in general, life experiences. Thus, maintaining health and treating illness is and always has been a core concern for humanity.

Recent advances in our capability to inexpensively sequence the complete human genome and rapidly process and interpret this complex information is changing our understanding of health and disease. We are learning that differences in an individual’s genetic make-up, or in the specific genetic changes that led to a patient’s disease, are important to how that patient’s disease develops and responds to treatment. This information can be used to better design and customize effective treatments.

These advances have led to personalized medicine – an approach to health care in which treatment is informed by a deep understanding of the genomic changes that contribute to each patient’s health and disease.

Genomics has already made tangible improvements in health care. Using therapeutics targeted to cancer’s causative genetic changes, the 5-year survival rate of patients with Myelogenous Leukemia has doubled. Genetic testing has reduced hospitalization rates of heart patients by 30% and decreased chemotherapy use in women with breast cancer by 34% (Personalized Medicine Coalition 2015 Annual Report). And better medication selection through genetics has been projected to save between $2.1 billion and $2.3 billion per year in Canada. These exciting results are just the tip of the iceberg of the many possibilities of genomics in health.

Within the health sector, genomics can:

  • Identify genetic pre-disposition to diseases
  • Quickly detect and identify disease-causing viruses, germs and bacteria
  • Select the best medication for each individual using their genetic data to improve treatment efficacy and reduce side effects
  • Improve the diagnoses of diseases and the understanding of disease progression
  • Develop “targeted” drugs that are highly specific to particular diseases or infectious organisms for more effective, and less toxic, treatments
  • Monitor the impact of lifestyle and environment on the genome, and in turn, individual health

At Ontario Genomics, we aim to understand both the challenges and opportunities in the health sector. We will work with you to help find innovative solutions to address these needs.  Learn more about how Ontario Genomics can help your business.

Contact Kathryn Deuchars, Senior Manager, Sector Innovation & Programs and Director, Ontario Personalized Medicine Network.