Not to mince words, Mr. Epstein, but we don’t like your boys’ sound.” This phrase uttered by Decca Records talent evaluation executive Dick Rowe left him a lasting legacy — the man who did not sign the Beatles. There are numerous examples of even the most successful of executives failing to recognize business opportunities placed before them. In Rowe’s case, this gaffe led to him being known not as the man who signed The Rolling Stones (which he did), but instead the one who spectacularly missed an incredible opportunity. Will personalized medicine (PM) be a lasting legacy of opportunity lost for life sciences industry executives? Time will tell. But, if you would rather position yourself as that visionary life science executive who not only recognized the opportunity PM promises, but captured it, start by gaining a deep understanding of what PM really is. And perhaps I can help with that understanding.
In October I attended a PM dinner discussion hosted by the National Journal Group (a division of the Atlantic Media Company) and underwritten by AstraZeneca. Prior to attending, I sought PM insights from a variety of stakeholders to help me prepare for the dinner. (Those insights are included in my blog, Can Personalized Medicine Ever Truly Become A Reality?) The dinner discussion provided additional knowledge from an impressive group of PM stakeholders (see page 31). However, as I was soon to find out, my PM education — and enlightenment — was about to continue.
Two days after returning from the PM event, I was offered the opportunity to preview a not-yet-published book on the subject, The Personalized Medicine Revolution: How Diagnosing and Treating Disease Are About to Change Forever, by Pieter Cullis, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of British Columbia. Cullis provides clarity on the links between the various components constituting PM. We will soon be able to create a fairly complete digital version of ourselves that includes so much more information beyond the genome (e.g., metabolome, microbiome, pharmacogenomics, proteome), and it will be complemented by other information (e.g., vital signs), so that, for the first time ever, we will have access to a comprehensive “operator’s manual” for our unique bodies. The impact of this information on how we live will be greater than any other technological advance ever experienced.
To avoid a PM legacy akin to Rowe’s and the Beatles, seek to understand components beyond your area of expertise so you will have a clearer picture of how the disciplines fit together. But more importantly, seek to find the technologies and companies that are finding the answers to PM questions you think unanswerable, or worse, have not even thought to ask (e.g., How or where are we going to store all of this data?). In other words, find the PM enablers, for they hold the keys to pharma realizing a PM legacy worth remembering.