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Faculty Members Receive $1.9 Million Grant to Study Personalized Medicine

veenstraMany healthcare and research experts predict that the era of personalized medicine is fast approaching. Soon, individual patients could have their entire genome sequenced as part of routine doctor's visits. Patients could face the possibility of receiving tens or even hundreds of genomic results with important clinical ramifications — from susceptibility to disease to treatment response to hereditary implications for family members.

Given the wide scope of results that patients may encounter, it is essential that healthcare providers know how to use this information to guide individualized care. Faculty members and researchers from the UW School of Pharmacy have been researching personalized medicine in this capacity for the past decade.

Most recently, three faculty members from the Pharmaceutical Outcomes Research and Policy Program (PORPP) received a $1.9 million grant to study the economics of personalized medicine. Professor of Pharmacy Dave Veenstra, pictured at left, is the principal investigator of the five-year project, which is being funded by the National Institutes of Health Common Fund. Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Josh Carlson and Professor of Health Services Anirban Basu (an adjunct faculty member in PORPP) are key co-investigators for the project. The project, entitled "Personalized Medicine Economics Research" (PriMER), will run for 5 years.

"We want to identify the best opportunities for research in personalized medicine and address potential challenges to its effective implementation," said Veenstra. "The overall goal of our project is to move the field of personalized medicine forward."

Veenstra and his team will be conducting a broad range of health economics-based research activities. First, they will develop a formal framework to better understand the economic incentives for companies to develop and healthcare providers to offer personalized medicine to their patients. To inform this framework, they will assess people's preferences for different aspects of personalized medicine by conducting national surveys of patients, healthcare providers and healthcare payers. For example, patients will be asked how much they would value information about a better response to a drug versus information about their risk of future disease.

They will also conduct sophisticated mathematical simulations to evaluate whether specific personalized medicine applications require additional research studies — or should be made available to patients in routine practice. For example, genomic markers have been identified that may help predict a patient’s response to antidepressant therapy — but there is a lack of clear evidence of the benefit to patients using this approach. As such, the question remains as to whether patients should be offered this genomic test. The PriMER study will help answer such questions.

"In the long term, this research will provide a foundation for assessing the value of personalized medicine and identifying the best opportunities for future research," said Veenstra. "In this way, genomic applications that provide the greatest benefit to patients will be identified and used. In addition, genomics research that provides the greatest return on investment to patients and our healthcare system will be pursued."


~November 4, 2013