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Precision medicine takes the trial & error out of prescribing drugs

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Hong Kong’s biotechnology start-up, Prenetics, gave a presentation at the Healthcare Drinks networking event (www.healthcaredrinks.com) on how precision medicine can take the trial & error out of prescribing drugs.

Danny Yeung, CEO of Prenetics, confirmed that their iGenes pharmacogenomic test has been launched in Hong Kong in February 2016 & that Manulife has decided to include the test (that costs less than USD500) in one of their senior citizen health insurance schemes. iGenes tests 53 genes for their ability to metabolize over 200 commonly prescribed drugs. Doctors can use the test results to individualize the drug prescription to a patient’s specific genetic make-up in order to optimize the treatment regime. Considering that adverse drug reactions are the 5th leading cause of death worldwide, pharmacogenomic tests have the potential to save healthcare systems substantial amounts of money.

Prenetics has just completed a USD10m round of financing and plans to double its headcount from the current 40 to 80 in the next year. With the cost of sequencing a human genome having come down from historical highs of USD200,000 to less than USD1,000 today, pharmacogenomic tests are now at an accessible price point to be used routinely in the doctor’s clinic. This will bring growth opportunities for ventures such as Prenetics.

Danny is a serial entrepreneur from the tech industry and he has used his past experiences to bring fresh ideas of how to commercialize innovation in the biotechnology business. He believes that the user experience is important, both for doctors & patients. The results of the iGenes tests are therefore shown on an easy to use App using a traffic light system: drugs that are metabolized normally & can be prescribed as directed are shown in green whilst the drugs that are metabolized slowly (& may lead to side effects) are shown in red since these need to be prescribed with caution (or alternatives could be considered)

The fact the patients respond differently to medication has been known for a long time. As FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg states: ‘The concept of personalized medicine is not new: clinicians have long observed that patients with similar symptoms may have different illnesses, with different causes; and similarly, that medical interventions may work well in some patients with a disease but not in others with apparently the same disease.’ 

In the new world of precision medicine affordable pharmacogenomic tests, like iGenes, take the guess work out of prescribing drugs and are able to offer patients better individualized treatments.