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Westmead leads the way

12 February 24

By W Bro Dr Max Katz-Barber


Precision Medicine, a ground-breaking approach that tailors medical treatments to individual patients, is rapidly transforming healthcare. The Westmead Institute for Medical Research (WIMR) is at the forefront of this revolution, embedding the concept of Precision Medicine into its research which in turn is informing patient care practices.


By relieving the burden of disease, Precision Medicine has the potential to reduce costs for healthcare systems, improve economic efficiencies, and enhance the overall quality of life for individuals worldwide.


What is Precision Medicine?

Recent advances in research and technology such as genomic sequencing, bioinformatics, data mining, machine learning, and advanced imaging techniques, have revolutionised our understanding of diseases. Precision Medicine harnesses these tools to analyse an individual’s unique genetic profile and disease characteristics, enabling the development of personalised treatment regimens that offer the best health outcomes. This paradigm shift in healthcare moves away from the traditional one-size-fits-all approach and instead pioneers individually tailored medical treatments and protocols.


Fine-tuned approach: Precision Medicine’s promise

Precision Medicine offers a fine-tuned approach to care by identifying the most suitable treatment option based on a patient’s genetic profile and other risk factors like diet and activity. This personalised approach not only ensures patients receive the right treatment from the start, benefiting both the patient and the healthcare system, but also enables the development of highly effective new treatments that target specific genetic profiles. These innovative treatments, including gene and cell therapies, drugs, and immunotherapies, hold the potential to treat and even cure currently intractable conditions.


The Power of Data: Driving Precision Medicine

Precision Medicine is powered by the discovery of the human genome and access to vast quantities of clinical and demographic data. The integration of this data, aided by machine learning and advanced computation methods, guides clinical decision-making and advances Precision Medicine in patient care.


Genomics is a central component, but data from biological imaging, electronic health records, health insurance claims, lifestyle apps, and environmental factors are also crucial. WIMR emphasizes the importance of harnessing data through various means like genomics, electronic data capture, public health records, artificial intelligence, data analytics, biobanking, cutting-edge technology, and bioinformatics.


Integrating Precision Medicine into clinical practice

As data storage capabilities increase and costs decrease, Precision Medicine is gradually being integrated into clinical care. The challenge lies in combining a deep understanding of disease biology with the mathematical and computational skills necessary to analyse large data sets. This integration will pave the way for new innovative clinical trials that will shape future clinical practice guidelines.


Investing in the future: WIMR’s pioneering role

WIMR takes pride in pioneering Precision Medicine approaches for disease preven- tion and treatment. Recognizing the importance of critical infrastructure, technology, and talented individuals, WIMR continues to invest in reshaping research investigations. The support and investment from philanthropic-minded members of the community are crucial for WIMR to realise its vision of making Precision Medicine broadly accessible.


Proof of the pudding: real-life impact of Precision Medicine

These are but two examples of how Precision Medicine has been able to help patients.

Nikola’s triumph over immunodeficiency

Nikola, diagnosed with Hyper IgM Syndrome, faced life-threatening infections due to his genetic immunodeficiency disorder. WIMR developed T-cell immunotherapy that supercharged Nikola’s immune system, enabling it to fight the deadly infection successfully. After Nikola’s doctor weaponised his immune system, he was given the all-clear. A fact that Nikola’s mother Fiona reports as, ‘It’s incredible.’

Paul’s journey to manage diabetes

Paul’s life changed when he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Through a pancreatic islet transplantation trial procedure pioneered at WIMR, he experienced improved control over his blood sugar levels, eliminating the need for insulin injections. Paul reports, ‘I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to be part of this trial. I now have a very personal understanding of why medical research is so important, and why it needs all our ongoing support. I encourage everyone to support medical research in Australia, and I also encourage everyone to register to become an organ donor.’


The future

Precision Medicine is transforming healthcare by providing personalised treatments tailored to individual patients. WIMR’s leadership in this field is paving the way for improved health outcomes, reduced healthcare costs, and enhanced quality of life globally. With ongoing investment and support, Precision Medicine will become a reality accessible to all, offering the gift of life and a brighter future for healthcare.


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