Last week, we launched a new flash interview “vlog” series. In this blog post, our Junior Research Fellow Dr Katherine Wood discusses the aims of these interviews and some of the key insights she took away from making the videos.

In this series, I have interviewed a range of different people involved in personalised medicine in one way or another, discussing their careers and their views on precision medicine now and in the future. These interviews will be released on a weekly basis so keep an eye on the CPM website and our Twitter feed (@CPMOxford) to ensure you don’t miss them! 

I have interviewed people from Professor Andrew Wilkie, a consultant in clinical genetics; to Dr Patrick Short, the CEO of Sano Genetics; and Professor Nina Hallowell, a professor of social and ethical aspects of genomics, to name but a few of our excellent speakers. The interviews covered many aspects of personalised medicine, from routine genetic testing in the clinic, the differences between academia and industry, the ethical implications of precision medicine, the role of bioinformaticians within the framework of large-scale genomics, and personalised therapies and pharmacogenetics.

One of the key themes which stood out to me was the difference in view between clinicians and academic researchers on the utility of genomic testing. Both Professor Andrew Wilkie and Dr Ed Blair raised the point that, from the perspective of a doctor, medicine has always been personalised and one would expect that whenever one sees a clinician, the care and treatment should be tailored towards the individual. While both highlighted the utility of targeted genetic testing for specific cases, there was scepticism about the role of widespread genomic screening in the clinic. On the other hand, both Dr Alex Geary and Dr Jamie Ellingford (bioinformaticians) hailed the exciting implications for research of being able to access and analyse vast quantities of DNA sequencing data. One key area many interviewees highlighted as a potential challenge going forward was the ability to process all the data we are collecting; is there really any point having so much information if we can’t analyse it all? Another interesting point raised by both Professor Andrew Wilkie and Professor Nina Hallowell was whether we should be investing so much into the genomics revolution at the expense of other factors which contribute to ill health (such as poor living conditions) or which we can test for simply and cheaply in the clinic (e.g. blood pressure). Overall, perhaps the take home message is that personalised medicine has many things to offer but it will not be the solution to everything!

On a different track, both Professor William Newman and Dr Andrew Douglas discussed the amazing potential of utilising “omic” data to tailor treatments to an individual. Professor Newman told us about the PALOH (Pharmacogenetics to Avoid Loss of Hearing) trial, a rapid point-of-care genetic test for newborn infants to prevent antibiotic-related hearing loss, while Dr Douglas’ discussion on antisense oligonucleotide therapies and the incredible successes there have been in the field so far left no doubt over the potential impact that tailored treatments can have on the patients’ lives. Finally, a particularly interesting chat with Dr Patrick Short from Sano Genetics highlighted the role that industry can and will play as we go forward with the personalised medicine revolution, and the fluidity between academia and industry these days. His careers advice for PhD students and postdocs is certainly worth a listen!

I really hope that you enjoy watching the videos and these snippets of insight into personalised medicine from many different perspectives! I certainly learned a lot making them.

Watch the Flash Interview Series here.