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National conference explores personalized medicine

February 26, 2010

The impact of personalized medicine on the delivery of health care now and in the future is the focus of a national conference being sponsored by major players in the field of law, medicine and science on March 8-9, at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix.

"Personalized Medicine in the Clinic: Policy, Legal, and Ethical Implications," will be hosted by the Center for Law, Science & Innovation at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at ASU, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the Mayo Clinic and the Food and Drug Law Institute (FDLI).

It is the third in a series of colloquia addressing the scientific discoveries, business models, and regulatory changes needed to develop new personalized treatments and their companion diagnostics. This conference will focus on personalized medicine in the clinic, examining the impacts of personalized medicine on healthcare professionals and patients today and in the future.

"This is something that has been talked about for a decade or so and is really starting to appear in real clinics with real patients and real doctors," said Gary Marchant, executive director of the College of Law's Center for Law, Science & Innovation. "However, many doctors haven't had the training or experience to know how to handle this type of genetic and molecular information, and that's creating real pressure on professionals to quickly get up to speed and learn this technology.

"Doctors should be getting ready for this revolution," continued Marchant, who has a doctorate in genetics and is the ASU Lincoln Professor of Emerging Technologies, Law and Ethics. "Some have said to me, `I hope I retire before this hits my clinic' – well, it's too late."

Personalized medicine is the application of genomic and molecular data to better target the delivery of health care, facilitate the discovery and clinical testing of new products, and help determine a person's predisposition to a particular disease or condition and their responsiveness to specific treatment options. The overarching concept is that information about a patient's protein, gene or metabolic profile could be used to tailor medical care to his or her needs.

The collaborative efforts of the conference organizers to combine both the clinical perspectives of personalized medicine with the policy, legal, economic and patient perspectives set it apart from other meetings under the broad umbrella of pharmacogenomics.

"Personalized medicine will not be a reality without an appreciation of how to integrate the clinical components of personalized medicine within our existing health care structure and all the challenges that go along with such integration," said Katherine Hunt, an assistant professor of medicine, and coordinator of the Genetic Counseling Program at Mayo Clinic in Arizona.

Leading experts from around the country will offer a range of views on the major issues involved with incorporating personalized medicine into doctor's offices, clinics and hospitals. Topics include patient rights, medical privacy and confidentiality, ethics, individualized medical care, economics, liability issues, intellectual property and more.

The keynote address, "The Promise and Progress of Personalized Medicine," will be delivered on the morning of March 8 by Lee Hartwell, co-director of the ASU Biodesign Institute's new Center for Sustainable Health. Hartwell, a Nobel laureate, is president and director of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, and a leading expert on the role of genetic and other molecular determinants of cancer.

Other notable experts include David Ewing Duncan, an award-winning, best-selling author, producer and columnist who focuses on new discoveries and their implications in biotechnology and the life sciences, and Denis A. Cortese, Emeritus President and Chief Executive Officer of Mayo Clinic. Duncan is Director of the Center for Life Science Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of Experimental man: what one man's body reveals about his future, your health, and our toxic world. Cortese directs ASU's Health Care Delivery and Policy Program and chairs The National Academies' Institute of Medicine (IOM) Roundtable on Value and Science Driven Healthcare.

During the two-day conference, seven sessions are scheduled:

• Case Studies and Examples: Personalized Medicine in the Clinic
• Healthcare Professionals and Personalized Medicine
• Managing Mountains of Information: The Nexus of Personalized Medicine and Information Technology
• Ethical and Policy Issues
• What's Holding Personalized Medicine Back and How Can We Increase the Pace Forward?
• Personalized Medicine and the Patient of the 21st Century
• What's in Store for Personalized Medicine? The Future is Never What We Expect it to Be

"An important highlight of the meeting is the very first session with its examples of how personalized medicine is already emerging as part of clinical care," said Mark S. Frankel, director of the AAAS Scientific Freedom, Responsibility and Law Program. "Examples such as these can drive further funding of medical research as well as help prepare all of us for the future of medical care.

The conference is intended for physicians and healthcare professionals, attorneys, patient groups, medical product manufacturers, policy-makers, medical researchers, scholars in the social sciences and humanities, students and journalists. Frankel called the program an "eye-opening glance at what the buzz is all about.

"As personalized medicine changes the practice of medicine, standards of care will change also," he said. "Physicians and other key actors, such as insurers, regulators and others, will need to be held accountable for developing and abiding by those evolving standards. Attorneys will be prominent players in ensuring that new systems of care are applied fairly and competently, are respectful of patients' rights, and offer appropriate mechanisms for protecting those rights.

Both Continuing Medical Education and Continuing Legal Education credits will be offered. Registration for the conference is $25 per person for those not seeking CLE or CME credits; students are admitted free. Advance registration is required. For CLE and CME information and to register, visit

The first two colloquia were held June 1-2, and October 26-27, 2009, at the AAAS headquarters in Washington, D.C. The Phoenix conference is being supported in part by Novartis Molecular Diagnostics, Polsinelli Shughart, the Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics at ASU, Snell & Wilmer L.L.P., Medical Professional Liability Insurance (MICA), 3M, Celera, Johnson & Johnson, Roche, AstraZeneca, The Greenwall Foundation, Bristol-Myers Squibb, the Personalized Medicine Coalition, TGen and the ABA Section of Science & Technology Law.

Janie Magruder,
(480) 727-9052
Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law