Personalized medicine is enabled by comprehensive molecular level analyses of the molecules that make up our bodies. Examples are genomic analyses to characterize the DNA in our cells, proteomic and metabolomic analyses to measure hundreds of molecules in our blood, and microbiomic analyses to determine the many species of bacteria that live in us and on us.

These very personal molecular profiles form individualized ”data clouds” that can be used to determine your risk of disease, detect diseases you may have and whether treatments to correct any disorders are actually working. Currently, these profiles are increasingly being used to determine what drugs will be most effective to treat a patient’s cancer, as well as to determine whether a prescribed drug will help or harm a particular individual. 

The forecast

What other advances can we expect from personalized medicine in the next ten years? As Yogi Berra said, “Predictions are difficult, particularly about the future.”

"Personalized medicine will result in an era where preventive medicine will come to the fore: where preventing disease by detecting early trends and taking action will be medicine’s major focus."

But some things are clear: Personalized medicine is going to spread as people acquire and share their digital data; it is going to become more accurate as this data is analyzed over large populations; it is going to be expanded into maintaining health in addition to identifying and treating disease; it is going to democratize medical care in the sense that very sophisticated diagnostics will become generally available to consumers; it is going to lead to enormous new industries aimed at maintaining wellness and treating potential rather than actual disease; it is going to completely disrupt current medical practices and it is going to pose considerable ethical and social dilemmas.

Under the microscope

Four areas of intense activity that will contribute to these impacts are advances in gene therapy, improved understanding of brain function, investigations on the biology of aging and the use of molecularly-based medicine to maintain wellness.

Gene therapies are now being developed that can perform microsurgery on your DNA, potentially correcting disorders ranging from Huntington’s disease to atherosclerosis. The study of aging has gained new respectability, and aging will increasingly be regarded as a disease that may be treatable rather than an irreversible process.

Finally, personalized medicine will result in an era where preventive medicine will come to the fore: where preventing disease by detecting early trends and taking action before full-blown disease is apparent will be medicine’s major focus.