Qatar is in a position to translate the efforts in precision medicine for the last five years into clinical implementation, noted experts at a panel discussion on *Precision Medicine – One size doesn’t fit all, on the first day of WISH 2020.
“Qatar’s leadership has taken several measures for the last five years to set and create data for precision medicine through various programmes and research,” said Dr Said Ismail, director of the Qatar Genome Programme, at the panel discussion.
“We spent a lot of time and efforts to introduce data for researchers and for programmes for universities to pave the way for precision medicine,” he said. “Now it is the right time to harness on what we have achieved and produced over the last five years. It is the time to shift from producing data to implement the outcomes at the clinical side.”
“This will basically show the patients that this can impact their life or the healthcare they are receiving,” he explained. “You also have to choose your models where you want to start to show the impact.
“The Qchip we are producing is another example as it consists of summary of variants that we have studied in the Qatari population and they are related to wide array of diseases.”
The panel discussion was also accompanied by the launch of a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), titled *Doing Well? Fulfilling the Promise of Precision Medicine.
The report, sponsored by Qatar Foundation, discusses the promise of precision medicine, what it is currently delivering, and challenges associated with its wider application in large health systems.
The report notes that precision medicine, while still work-in-progress, has shown promising potential, particularly in areas like oncology and rare diseases.
It has allowed better understanding of tumour genetics resulting in more effective treatments – particularly for lung and breast cancer.
For rare diseases, genomic sequencing has drastically reduced diagnosis times from years to a matter of months, sometimes even weeks.
David Humphreys, global head of Health Policy at EIU, said: “Our focus with the study was really looking at that long talked about promise of better, more targeted care for patients and ongoing basis.
“It really focused on two critical aspects that we consider to be important.
“The first is integration into the patient centricity movement, and the second is the concept of return on investment and value demonstration.
“Much has been said about precision medicine generating savings, and there is also evidence.”
The report hints that perhaps the biggest challenge will be developing a workforce capable of delivering precision medicine, including integration of specialists – notably geneticists, genetic counsellors, and data into the existing healthcare system.
“When we look at the policy briefs we have drafted, we wanted to make sure that it addresses strategy as well as policies, and one aspect of that is to harmonise the activities among the different players,” said Walid Qoronfleh, director of Healthcare Research and Policy at WISH.
“Another important aspect is the integration of precision medicine into primary healthcare. So, what we see is to provide pragmatic and practical key recommendations that are not only applicable to Qatar, but also applicable internationally.”
The panel also included Dr Victor Dzau, president of the US National Academy of Medicine, and Dr Lotfi Chouchane, professor at Weill Cornell Medicine – Qatar.
Precision Medicine’s end-goal is to move away from medicine’s current one-size-fits-all approach to more personalised care that is formulated based on the person’s genetics – right care at the right time.
This will help cut down diagnosis time and avoid the risks of incorrect treatment, allowing healthcare to deliver better patient outcomes improved population health.