Opportunities and Challenges

A key driver towards personalized medicine is the dramatic increase in our ability to sequence DNA. It will soon be possible to sequence a patient’s entire genome at a cost and speed commensurate with other diagnostic tests. A typical diagnostic test offers insight into a single aspect of a single disorder, at a single time point, in a single patient. In contrast, genomic sequence data offers insight into a vast array of potential diseases, with predictive power not only for the patient, but the patient’s family. Genome sequencing is critical to understanding the heterogeneity among population groups in order to target the appropriate therapy to the appropriate group. It is a very different type of diagnostic test, requiring new tools and presenting new opportunities for research, drug development, and health management.

The emerging opportunity for personalized medicine in our healthcare system is contingent on the collection of this genomic data, as well as the collection, conversion, and mining of large amounts of complex data – such as patient data. Ontario’s health data landscape is prolific – but connections for such exchange of data between organizations are lacking. To explore and employ Ontario’s prolific Health Data Landscape will necessitate new tools, new talent, and new infrastructure. The OPMN spearheaded an investigation into Ontario’s health data resources and their lack of connectivity; View the Report.

We are at critical point in the advancement of personalized medicine. Progress in genomics and related fields have increased scientific knowledge, the cost of sequencing is rapidly declining and developments in data processing are translating this information into clinical application. Ontario has long been a world leader in scientific research and this knowledge could result in significant economic value, job and wealth creation. Countries around the world have recognized personalized medicine’s potential and are poised to take advantage of the benefits. Ontario has the opportunity to join them.

To seize this opportunity and integrate a personalized approach to health care in Ontario will take significant planning and investment. Inaction will result in missed opportunities for the province.  Through analysis of Ontario’s current landscape, future opportunities and potential challenges, the Ontario Personalized Medicine Network (OPMN) will help Ontario achieve maximum benefit from this health care transformation.