Take a look at the people around you. How different do they all appear? How different are they from you? We are all different – yet when it comes to medical treatment, many of us fall victim to mass market medicines which aren’t targeted to meet our individual needs. Fortunately, change is here, and it is called precision medicine.
Precision medicine is poised to revolutionise medicine manufacture by scaling down and miniaturising biopharmaceutical manufacturing techniques so the treatment focus is on much smaller patient groups.
Thanks to major worldwide initiatives like the Human Genome Project, we now understand more and more about how DNA composition controls how disease and treatments affect each of us in different ways. By dividing and subdividing patients into increasingly specific groups, we get greatly improved results from treatments. The more specific a treatment is to the patient, the more likely it will work and not cause unforeseen complications.
The idea is simple. In order to make increasingly specific treatments, we must eliminate the current hurdles to manufacturing cost-effective drugs by shrinking the physical size of medicine manufacturing. Large facilities are run to fulfill massive amounts of production and are not practical for producing small batches.
The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) is helping companies to scale down traditional biopharmaceutical manufacturing methods and develop new techniques for the future delivery of precision medicine. A potential solution would be to scale down process technologies into a single-format manufacturing unit that can change between producing different products to make small batches on site. A solution like this could be installed directly in hospitals giving patients direct access to personalised treatment at their bedside.
Every patient’s situation and genetic background will affect how a patient reacts to treatment. DNA information lets us understand exactly what the risks and advantages are to certain treatments in different situations. Using all of this information together provides the best chance for successful biopharmaceutical treatment that can address the causative factors of disease.
From the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa to the SARS scare a decade before, our global civilisation is charting brand new territory in terms of the threat of epidemics. Never before have we seen such intercontinental mobility, which also carries new bacteria and disease with us everywhere we go. Large scale biopharmaceutical manufacturing is not practical for addressing a global outbreak. There are already shortages of vaccines in certain areas, medicines don’t affect everyone equally, and extremely long manufacturing processes could spell disaster for our growing population when faced with a fast-moving epidemic.
Promoting precision medicine manufacture to the point where it can be done in hospitals or transported to facilities around the world will act as a safeguard to our public health. It will let us have the right medicines exactly where we need them, eliminating transport costs and times. New biologics and other medicines will let us treat people more effectively, on an individual basis, which will reduce health care costs over the long term and limit suffering, thus improving quality of life for everyone. With benefits like this on its side, precision medicine manufacture is set to alter the very foundation of the world in which we live — for the better.