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Making futuristic
medicine a reality


Supported by mammoth funding, European research institutions are embarking on a massive, multi-faceted, scientific endeavour to achieve “visionary technological goals”. Following an initial year-long pilot project phase, two flagship initiatives will be chosen under the banner European Future Technologies or FET, each funded to the tune of a billion Euros. They will run for 10 years in an effort to achieve these futuristic goals.

On its own, the medicine-related facet – the Information Technology Future of Medicine (ITFoM), one of six pilot projects – could have far-reaching implications for the future of medicine. This innovative initiative is the first to address worldwide individualised patient care in combination with genomics and medical requirements.

To prepare the launch of the FET Flagships, six Pilot Actions have been initiated. Each has been funded with 1.5 million Euros for a 12-month period running to May next year. In the second half of 2012, two of the Pilots will be selected and launched as full FET Flagship Initiatives in 2013.

As one of the six Pilot Actions, the ITFoM project brings together 26 partners and 20 associated members including academic institutes and private companies from 15 countries.

“They are like The Human Genome projects in which we participated,” says Hans Lehrach, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics and The Dahlem Centre for Genome Research and Medical Systems Biology in Berlin, Germany. Professor Lehrach is coordinator of the ITFoM project.

Specifically, ITFoM aims to make individualised medicine a reality through innovation in Information and Communications Technology.

A spokesperson for ITFoM explains that as data-intensive analysis and computer intensive modelling become common clinical practice, ICT capacity and organisation will become key limiting factors in medicine; this will result in a shift of resources from personnel-intensive to ICTintensive applications. Clinical needs will be the driving force behind future ICT innovation.

Data-rich, individualised medicine poses unprecedented challenges for ICT in terms of hardware, storage and communication. Making personalised medicine a reality will thus require fundamental advances in the computational sciences. It is with this in mind that ITFoM brings together world leading research groups from across Europe and beyond. ITFoM proposes a medicine based on computer models (‘virtual patients’) derived from molecular, physiological, anatomical and environmental data generated for every individual patient. These ‘virtual patients’ will then be used to identify individually optimised prevention/therapy schedules and minimise potential side effects of treatment regimes.

To develop this ICT-driven medicine of the future, ITFoM will prepare for the amalgamation of four major areas:

- The first is medicine itself – from specimen analysis and diagnosis provision to clinical practice and patient consent;

- The second concerns analytical techniques, covering functional genomics and imaging technology analyses on a routine basis;

- The third focuses on integration, developing tools required to incorporate the gathered clinical data, and generated analytical data into models that will inform relevant health providers;

- The fourth area involves the ICT developments required to tackle the immense computational challenges.

The ultimate goals of ITFoM

- The first goal is to give each patient’s doctor the power to analyse a person‘s human genome at every stage of disease management – through diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. This will require a revolution in ICT technologies so that relevant computing, storage, networking and modelling technologies are developed;

- The second goal is to enable the connection of high throughput biomolecular characterisation and clinical imaging technologies.

Beneficiaries of this linkage will include: the patient and their doctor; drug researchers in both the discovery and development phases; epidemiologists attempting to analyse health trends; and policy- and decision-makers developing effective national and EU-wide health policy options and legislation. Enabling this connection will require a revolution in integrated information management and decision making. This constitutes a fundamental transformation of biomedical science – from probability- based and empirical to evidence-based and knowledge-driven.

ITFoM says that the project outcomes will enable the prediction of health, disease, therapy and its effects for individual patients and through application in the clinic will change the future of medicine.


ate of upload: 18th Oct 2011


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