10 takeaways from Future of Genomic Medicine meeting

The Future of Genomic Medicine conference last week down in La Jolla at Scripps was one of my favorite meetings ever. I wish I had time to have live blogged it more beyond the one post I did about some gene editing talks.

Carl Zimmer comparing his genome to that of other individuals from different parts of the world.

Below I discuss 10 top takeaways from this great meeting that I’m planning to attend regularly in the future. You should go too!

  1. Genomocracy. Genomics technologies and data should be shared as much as possible. No brainer, right? But this also involves new approaches practically speaking to sharing both the massive data out already there and the continuing stream that has become a flood. Good intentions are not enough.
  2. Patient-centrism in genomics. Patients should have a central role in genomic medicine and they shouldn’t have to battle to get their own charts as well as other personal data. Patients should have this role in stem cell-based medicine too, but in both cases for actual investigational drugs, patient-centrism doesn’t mean bypassing the FDA’s role.
  3. Mine the data. There’s a wealth of publicly available genomics data that itself can serve as the basis for innovative new technological approaches to health and disease, new companies, and concrete help to patients (HT to Atul Butte for a mind-blowing talk on this. Follow him on Twitter @atulbutte!)
  4. Today’s top 10-selling drugs don’t make most patients well. Today’s top 10 most popular medicines aren’t a good match for the patients that they target, who are largely non-responders to those drugs.
  5. Super intense cancer outcomes, good and bad. The notion of super-responders and super-progressors such as in cancer was an eye opener for me. Some people actually get bigger tumors quickly after treatment is initiated. This resonates for me as I’m still navigating what it means to be a cancer researcher and survivor myself…
  6. Warp speed genetics. The field of genetics has advanced at warp speed with for example only about 150 years since Gregor Mendel’s work on peas to today when it’s a snap to edit genomes (HT to Siddhartha Mukherjee, author of The Gene. You gotta follow Sid too @DrSidMukherjee). Where will our field be in 50 years? Even in 5-10 years things may be very different. Already waiting for Sid’s next book.
  7. No playing monopoly with CRISPR. Nobody’s going to have a monopoly or anything even close to it on gene editing technologies and that’s a good thing for patients and science.
  8. All patients eventually will have genomic data in chart. Carl Zimmer gave a great, funny talk about his experience having his genome sequenced. Only after visiting various genomics labs was he able to find some aberrations in the ‘Zimmerome’. BTW, you can probe all the A’s, C’s, G’s, and T’s of the Zimmerome yourself here. One of the other conclusions of the analysis was just how similar Carl’s genome is to other people from different locales. See image above. Not a surprise, but cool Venn diagram sends a powerful message. My main reason for including this in the top 10 bullet points is that it is getting more common for people to get sequenced. How far will personal genomics penetrate the general public in coming years? I believe that genotype will become as “normal” as blood type.
  9. Sequencing for pathogens inside us. Sequencing can diagnose the presence of many more pathogenic organisms in the human body than you might think. One literally mind-boggling infectious disease talk highlighted the diagnostic identification of a tape worm in the brain of a very sick patient via sequencing.
  10. IPS cells will have a growing role in personalized medicine. This was the focus of my own talk. Stem cells and in particular IPS cells are a powerful route for personal genomic medicine, but they clinically they raise thorny issues too such as germline modification and human cloning via reprogramming to IPS cells.

Meet you at the beach. Having a meeting at Scripps right on the beach is really fun as is having a tent outdoors with a big screen for watching the meeting proceed. I only wish I could have given my talk out there in the tent!