Beth Israel, like other Boston hospitals, sees promise in personalized medicine

Update 10? 21: This Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center program  got a plug at the Connected Health meeting last week from Kevin Davies, editor Bio-IT World and author of  The $1,000 Genome: The Revolution in DNA Sequencing  and the New Era of Personalized. Davies said it will help make genome sequencing a useful tool for diagnosis and treatment.

Noting that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration [FDA] has approved over 30 drugs with “biomarker guidelines for treatment,” Beth Israel Pathology Department announced yesterday that it is moving into personalized medicine.

The hospital has signed two-year deal with a Westborough-base GenomeQuest, a company that makes DNA analysis software.  The company, according to a joint press release, “will provide whole-genome data management and analysis capabilities for all “next-generation sequencing” projects in BIDMC’s Department of Pathology.” See story on

The hospital is already offering staff classes in personalized medicine. Click here for a link to project staff bios. Click here for a link to the course offerings.

To describe the effort, the hospital’s pathology quotes the 2008 report from President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) and links to a group called The Personalized Medicine Coalition :  

Personalized medicine refers to the tailoring of medical treatment to the individual characteristics of each patient. It does not literally mean the creation of drugs or medical devices that are unique to a patient but rather the ability to classify individuals into subpopulations that differ in their susceptibility to a particular disease or their response to a specific treatment. Preventive or therapeutic interventions can then be concentrated on those who will benefit, sparing expense and side effects for those who will not.

That last sentence reflect the hope more than the reality, apparently, a lot of start-ups are betting on it as they develop technology hospitals need to offer DNA analysis.  More here  from Xconomy Boston.  And other area hospitals are offering their own versions of  the approach , which is promising but — except in a few cases — still far from well-established as an approach to care.

 Mass General is already advertising it as a service, even though some of the offerings involve clinical trials, not treatment.  Partners has its own “Center for Personalized Medicine.” Dana Farber’s program is also based in its pathology department.


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