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Precision medicine: can it live up to the hype?

The promise of treatments based on people's genetic profiles

Hear world-renowned thinkers explore some of the key issues around precision medicine. They analyse the realities of disease prediction, economics, ethics, clinical applications and the balance between the personal and the public benefit.

The promise of precision medicine is that it could offer better health outcomes by targeting patients’ genetic and biochemical make-up to pinpoint, predict, prevent and treat diseases. Can it deliver on this?

Physician and epidemiologist Professor Sandro Galea from Boston University provides his perspective on the approaches and value of personalised medicine versus public health medicine. Health economist, Professor Sarah Wordsworth from Oxford University examines the economics, asking who pays and who benefits?

Then, joining them both for a robust discussion are clinician Professor Chris Semsarian from Royal Prince Alfred Hospital; Associate Professor Ainsley Newson, Deputy Director of Sydney Health Ethics at the Sydney School of Public Health; with Professor Robyn Ward, Executive Dean at the Faculty of Medicine and Health, as the chair. 

This event was held on Wednesday 2 October, 2019 at the University of Sydney.

The speakers

Sandro Galea is considered one of the most important and innovative voices in American health and medicine. A physician, epidemiologist and author, he is dean and Robert A. Knox Professor at Boston University School of Public Health.

Sandro holds a medical degree from the University of Toronto, graduate degrees from Harvard University and Columbia University, and an honorary doctorate from the University of Glasgow. He was named one of Time magazine’s epidemiology innovators and has been listed as one of the 'world’s most influential scientific minds.' He is chair of the board of the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health, as well as an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine and has received a number of lifetime achievement awards. 

Sarah Wordsworth is Professor of Health Economics at the University of Oxford. She has almost 25 years’ experience in the evaluation of costs and benefits of health care technologies. Since 2003 she has led a research programme on the economics of genetic and genomic technologies and personalised medicine. Of particular interest are the economics of translating genomic high-throughput technologies from research into clinical practice, in cancer, infectious disease and cardiovascular disease.

Sarah is lead for the 100,000 Genomes Project, Genomics England Health Economics Clinical Interpretation Partnership and an advisor to NHS England on the implementation of whole genome sequencing into the UK National Health Service.  A lack of evidence on the cost-effectiveness of novel genomic technologies such as whole genome sequencing is a key translational challenge. Sarah’s work is highly translational as health economic evaluation is often required before new technologies are adopted. Sarah has co-authored several text books on analysis methods for health economics and genomic research audiences and is Co-Director of a new masters course on Precision Cancer Medicine at the University of Oxford.

Chris Semsarian is an internationally renowned cardiologist and scientist studying genetic heart disease and sudden death and the management of individuals and families with, or at risk of, inherited cardiac disorders.

He is the Director of the Genetic Heart Disease and Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Clinic at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney and Director of the Australian Genetic Heart Disease Registry. Chris' research focuses on identifying new genes in cardiovascular disease, elucidating the molecular basis of how these genes lead to clinical manifestations, and evaluating the role of modifying factors in clinical disease development and progression. He established and heads the Molecular Cardiology Program at the Centenary Institute, University of Sydney.

Ainsley Newson is an authority on the ethical issues that arise in genomics and personalised medicine. Her work critically considers how genomic technologies should be used well, in both clinical and population health settings. Particular issues that Ainsley has focused on include discussions of population screening, genetic testing in children and prenatal diagnosis.

In addition to her academic role as Associate Professor and Deputy Director at Sydney Health Ethics, Ainsley is a member of several policy-making committees in bioethics and health for government and professional associations. She also regularly engages in media and public debate about bioethics issues.

Robyn Ward AM FAHM joined the University of Sydney in July 2018 as the inaugural Executive Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health. She was the former Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) and Executive Dean (Acting) of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Queensland.

Robyn is an academic leader, cancer researcher and medical oncologist. She chairs the Commonwealth Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC), and serves on the Council and Executive of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences. In 2013 she was made Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for significant service to medical research and patient care in the field of oncology.

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