“In 1953 molecular biologists James Watson and Francis Crick discovered DNA’s double-helix molecular structure. It was one of the greatest scientific achievements of the 20th century”
DNA is a star. Fictional forensic investigators are always on the hunt for DNA evidence. It can be used to trace your family history. Services such as AncestryDNA beseech people to take a DNA test to “discover your ancestors”. We know DNA tells us about the past – where we are from – but now it is going to be used to see into the future.
In 2010, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, a UK-based independent charity exploring issues surrounding biological and medical research, produced a report titled ‘Medical profiling and online medicine: the ethics of ‘personalised healthcare’ in a consumer age’. It stated that “personalised healthcare” could refer both to “healthcare tailored to a person’s specific characteristics” or “healthcare where more responsibility is given to individuals rather than medical professionals”.
The report linked the enthusiastic adoption of the idea of personalisation to “responsibilisation”, the belief that people should take more responsibility for their own health, and “consumerisation”, the belief that healthcare providers should take “a consumerist approach to healthcare” and focusing on the individual and his or her needs. Personalised healthcare is about prevention, on the one hand, and early detection, on the other.
The UK government is big on prevention, which it claims could save 500,000 lives. This could mean ramping up efforts to encourage people to adopt a healthier lifestyle, perhaps utilising one of the health apps in the NHS Apps Library, such as Active 10, an app designed to “help you get into the habit of walking briskly for 10 minutes every day”.
Smith’s article includes a number of examples of how genetic testing can be used to tailor treatment to individuals, but perhaps the most intriguing is that of Dr Michael Snyder, Director of Stanford University’s Center for Genomics and Personalised Medicine and a pioneer in the field of genomics. For the almost a decade Dr Snyder has been using himself as a Guinea pig, tracking his molecular and physiological markers in an attempt to detect problems before they occur. He has succeeded in detecting and treating Lyme disease and type 2 diabetes.
“Precision medicine flips the script on conventional medicine, which typically offers blanket recommendations and prescribes treatments designed to help more people than they harm but that might not work for you,” writes Smith. “The approach recognizes that we each possess distinct molecular characteristics, and they have an outsize impact on our health.”
Healthcare couldn’t be more personal.
This article is designed to throw an everyday lens on some of the issues being discussed and debated by investors across the world; it is not research, so please do not interpret it as a recommendation for your personal investments. If something has piqued your interest and you would like to find out more or discuss what investments might be suitable for you, please contact one of our Investment Managers on 020 7337 0777.