Europe: the new frontier for precision medicine

The quick uptake of tailored therapies by stakeholders in Europe offers the opportunity to propel the Continent ahead of the US to reap commercial success, believes Jurgi Camblong.

Personalised medicines, as a concept, are no longer new, but it is only recently that services required for their use, including companion diagnostics and genetic analytics have come to maturity and are becoming available in everyday clinical practice. The spread of analytics and awareness of its potential are increasing at a rapid rate in Europe. This has been helped by improvements in access and high-profile endorsements of the technology through, for example, the experiences of celebrities like Angelina Jolie. More patients are now benefitting from using cutting-edge drug therapies to treat conditions diagnosed through the latest testing technologies.

In Europe, improving patient outcomes by using personalised or precision medicine relies on a range of actors. This includes healthcare institutions willing to use genetic testing and analytics technology, payers willing to reimburse the cost of high-value drugs, drug companies that focus on developing new personalised therapies, companion diagnostics providers that drive improvements in information gathering, and genetic analytics services which help interpret the results. In all of these areas, Europe is taking a leading role, helping to drive a transformation in care for people with chronic conditions or those at risk of developing them.

More and more healthcare providers are signing up to the genomic medicine revolution, in Western Europe and, farther afield, in countries like Poland and Turkey, offering genetics analysis to a new generation of patients. Alongside, major European diagnostics and drugs companies, including Roche and AstraZeneca, continue to excel, and are at the forefront of developing personalised medicines in oncology and other therapy areas. We are witnessing a democratising of genomic medicine and personalised therapies, which is benefitting significant numbers of patients and leading to new drug discoveries.

Driving this trend is a realisation that, despite the fragmented nature of healthcare systems in Europe, collaboration is possible and is often the key to success. Through using shared platforms and technologies for genetic analysis, for example, providers can deliver a guaranteed standard for patients regardless of location, improving confidence in diagnosis and supporting difficult treatment decisions. With the right data security and management processes in place, European institutions can now use their shared knowledge to greatly improve the diagnosis of major illnesses, continuously improving standards of care and outcomes right across the Continent. This can also lead to new insights into how to use precision medicines to make meaningful healthcare gains.

And the real reward from adopting this approach is that the more institutions come on board, the quicker improvements in diagnosis will be seen, supporting both better outcomes and the potential development of new therapies.

A critical mass of medical professionals, established healthcare companies, entrepreneurial success stories and world-class academic institutions is now able to support future gains in knowledge about genomic medicine in Europe. Given this infrastructure and greater public awareness of how it can improve lives, the European medical community has the chance to rival other great centres in developing the next stage of breakthroughs.

Europe’s strong scientific and academic base has traditionally struggled to translate its knowledge into commercial success, when compared with the US. However, its speedy adoption of genomic medicine has the potential to turn the tables. We are likely to see rapid gains from successful European companies if they are supported by forward-thinking healthcare providers willing to pool their collective knowledge. As well as being good news for patients, such collaboration has the potential to help companies throughout the supply chain – from those making companion diagnostic equipment through to large pharma companies placing bets on future breakthrough therapies.

European policy makers and healthcare providers must continue to encourage data sharing and standardisation, and resist retreating into self-made or ad hoc approaches to delivering precision medicine. Through effective collaboration, Europe has the chance to lead the personalised medicines transformation in the management and prevention of chronic illness, for the good of industry, healthcare professionals and patients alike.

About the author:

Jurgi Camblong is an entrepreneur active in the field of clinical genomics and data-driven medicine. He studied Biochemistry in Pau, France, before completing his Master’s degree at a research lab in Bordeaux, France. His passion for molecular genetics led him to Geneva where he started his PhD in 2002.

In 2008 Dr Camblong moved to the University of Oxford and led his own post-doctorate research at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology. He made major breakthroughs in gene silencing and transcriptional directionality, published in leading scientific journals.

Dr Camblong founded Sophia Genetics in 2011. He and the other two co-founders (Pierre Hutter and Lars Steinmetz) established the company to help patients get better diagnosis and treatment.

Since founding Sophia Genetics, Jurgi Camblong has managed three fundraising rounds to collectively raise around $18 million. The company now has 50 employees.

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