Plenge Lab
Date posted: January 25, 2015 | Author: | No Comments »

Categories: Drug Discovery Human Genetics Precision Medicine

Dear Mr. President,

I was very pleased to listen to your State of the Union address and learn of your interest in Precision Medicine. As I am sure you know, this has led to a number of commentaries about what this term actually means (here, here, here). I would like to provide yet another perspective, this time from someone who has practiced clinical medicine, led academic research teams and currently works in the pharmaceutical industry.

Let me start by acknowledging that I know very little about your plan, but that is because no plan has been announced. However, that inconvenient fact should not prevent me from forming a very strong opinion about what you should do. Similar behavior is observed in politics (which you know well) and sports radio (see for example “Deflate-gate”). So here it goes…

I want to clarify my definition of “precision medicine” (see here for my previous blog on how this is different from “personalized medicine”). In the simplest of terms, precision medicine refers to the ability to classify individuals into subpopulations based on a deep understanding of disease biology. Note that this is different than what clinicians normally practice, which is to classify patients based on signs and symptoms (which can be measured by clinicians as part of routine clinical appointments).…

Read full article...


Date posted: June 4, 2013 | Author: | No Comments »

Categories: Drug Discovery Human Genetics Precision Medicine

As I sought advice from colleagues about my career, I was frequently asked if I would prefer to work in academics or industry (emphasis on the word “or”).  The standard discussion went something like this:

ACADEMICS – you are your own boss and you are free to chose your own scientific direction; funding is tight, but good science still gets funded by the NIH, foundations and other organizations (including industry); the team unit centers around individuals (graduate students, post-docs, etc), which favors innovative science but sometimes makes large, multi-disciplinary projects challenging; there is long-term stability, including control over where you want to work and live, assuming funding is procured and good ideas continue; your base salary will be less than in industry, but you still make a good living and there are opportunities to consult – and maybe even start your own company – to supplement income.  Bottom line: if you want to do innovative science under your own control, work in academics – as that is where most fundamental discoveries are made.

INDUSTRY – there are more resources, but those resources are not necessarily under your control (depending upon your seniority); the company may change direction quickly, which changes what you are able to work on; while drug development takes 10-plus years, many goals are short-term (several years), which limits long-term investment in projects that are risky and require years to develop; the team unit centers around projects (e.g., making drugs), so there is less individual glory but more opportunities to do multi-disciplinary projects; there is more turn-over in industry, which means you may need to switch jobs (including location – where you want to live) in several years. …

Read full article...


Date posted: March 16, 2013 | Author: | 1 Comment »

Categories: Precision Medicine

For our website, we have chosen the term “precision medicine” rather than “personalized medicine”.  A recent News article in Nature Medicine reinforces this concept (see here). 

I have had many of my non-genetic physician colleagues comment to me: “We practice personalized medicine every day.  It’s called basic patient care!”  Their point: physicians see patients and make decisions about the best course of treatment based on patient preferences.  For example, one RA patient may prefer to have a drug infusion once per month and another patient may prefer to take a pill each day. 

The Nature Medicine article emphasizes  “the idea that molecular information improves the precision with which patients are categorized and treated“.  While personalized medicine might say “patient X with disease Y should get drug Z”, precision medicine says “patient X has a subset of disease Y — actually, disease Y3, not disease Y1, Y2 or Y4 — and patients with disease Y tend to respond more favorably to drug Z”.  Said another way bt Charles Sawyers, an oncologist at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York: “we are trying to convey a more precise classification of disease into subgroups that in the past have been lumped together because there wasn’t a clear way to discriminate between them“.…

Read full article...