Harnessing the Power of Precision Medicine

November 15, 2013

Twenty years ago, if only one person out of hundreds went into remission during a clinical trial for a cancer drug, that patient would have been considered just plain lucky and the therapy deemed a failure. But today, with a host of tools garnered from precision medicine, one person’s “good luck” can be leveraged into a precise and effective therapy for countless others whose tumors have a similar genetic profile.  

Precision medicine explores the interplay of all aspects of human health, including not just genetics, but also environment, behavior, and lifestyle. Multiple layers of population information are entered into technological tools that have the unprecedented power to distill worldwide data down to a solution for just one person. 

In late 2011, a National Academy of Sciences committee passionately endorsed precision medicine as the best means to explore the cause, development, cure, and prevention of the world’s most daunting illnesses. Its co-chair was UC San Francisco Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann, MD, MPH, a resident alumna.

UCSF stands among the global leaders working to move this nascent field forward. The institution's six-pillar platform of methods, tools, and resources will support precision medicine efforts everywhere. Our experts across all disciplines are giving new hope to billions of patients, one by one, around the world. Read on to find out how.

It's All About Networking

Pillar No. 1: Knowledge Network. With an increased ability to harvest information automatically and more powerfully, scientists can find the connections among discoveries that would otherwise go unrecognized.

Digging Deeper into Cancer

Pillar No. 2: Basic Discovery. The long path to developing potent new treatments often starts with an observation in the lab that then leads to a question about a fundamental life process.

Big Data, Tailored Care

Pillar No. 3: Clinical Discovery. Researchers are taking vast amounts of patient data, often collected through first-ever clinical studies, and putting it into tools like MS Bioscreen that have a direct impact on patient care.

The Fabric of Disease

Pillar No. 4: Computational Health Sciences. Computationally intensive approaches are used to analyze and cross-analyze large but discrete collections of data, such as patient health histories and genetic makeup.

The Gene Machine

Pillar No. 5: Omics Medicine. Molecular biologist Nevan Krogan's work is not only illuminating how genes and proteins function, it's also shedding light on the underlying biology of disease for each person – a central goal of "-omics" medicine.

A Digital Path to Health

Pillar No. 6: Digital Health. The Center for Digital Health Innovation shepherds the development of digital health innovations created at UCSF and validates the effectiveness of devices from both inside and outside the institution.