The Genomic Revolution


Below, Moshe Pritsker answers our final question.

Genomics is a good example of a cross-disciplinary approach that produced a landmark shift in biomedical research, drug discovery, and other life science areas. Enabling single experiments that produce amounts of data that would require thousands or millions of experiments just a few years ago led to a drastic increase in the information on biological and medical molecular-level processes. Genomics has changed the technical foundation of biomedical sciences and strongly reshaped the conceptual thinking in this field. The changes introduced by genomics will have long-term consequences for healthcare, environment protection and the future of the humanity in general.â¨

â¨Being initially focused on the sequencing and analyses of genomes from human and other organisms, genomics combined knowledge from biology, computer sciences, mathematics, and engineering. In parallel to the sequencing, a new set of tools such as microarrays were developed. These tools enabled collecting even larger quantities of biological information and introduced revolutionary changes into the practice and theory of life sciences. Furthermore, a combination of robotics, imaging, and molecular biology techniques such as RNAi enabled massive manipulation of genes in living cells, paving a road to a large-scale identification of biologically active molecules.â¨

It was expected that the new genomics tools and the resulting increase in the amount of scientific information would accelerate development of new medical therapies such as drugs against cancer. This did not happen, although pharma and biotech companies relatively rapidly integrated the new genomic approaches and tools into their preclinical R&D. It seems that later stages of the drug discovery process, namely clinical trials and regulatory approvals, remained largely unaffected by the genomic revolution. While more and more new drug candidates are being discovered in the preclinical research, their clinical testing remains a long and costly process. Because of this bottleneck, an average Joe (a tax-payer who finances the science) is yet to enjoy the fruits of genomics that he heard so much about on TV, radio, and anywhere else. Is it possible to redirect genomics technologies to focus on the final goal--development of new drugs? The question remains open.


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Provocative use of the past tense, as if the genomics revolution was a historical moment that has been and gone, leaving only disappointment that technological advances did not immediately translate into practical outcomes.

This disappointment - an inevitable result of collusion between funders, scientists and the media? - does not negate the last sentence of your first paragraph:

The changes introduced by genomics will have long-term consequences for healthcare, environment protection and the future of the humanity in general.

But not now, not yet.

Hi Neil,

Your point is totally valid. I think Pritsker is just expressing frustration at the slow rate of change.

I believe it is a critical mass question. When whole genome information of millions of individuals and their health care records are on the database, gene, disease and drug interactions can be most accurately simulated. Then we can talk about a shortening of the clinical trail period.