An exciting new research project that aims to make personalized medicine a reality for patients is launching in a number of community pharmacies across British Columbia.
The “Genomics for Precision Drug Therapy in the Community Pharmacy” project is the first of its kind in North America. The project is funded by Genome BC and the BC Pharmacy Association (BCPhA), with the research component led by a team at the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences (UBC). It will position the pharmacist as the healthcare provider through which patient genetic information can be acquired, assessed, and used to guide drug therapy decisions.
The genetic makeup, or genome, of each individual can predict how each person responds to drug therapies. Data from a patient’s genome can be used to determine the appropriateness of a particular medication for them without using the data to focus on disease or diagnosis. Rapid, inexpensive, next-generation sequencing (NGS) has already changed the way we treat diseases such as cancer, and now promises to revolutionize health care by providing a comprehensive record of each individual’s genetic disposition. A key challenge that this project will address is to develop a streamlined, efficient means to capture, assess, and deliver that information.
Widespread adoption of this technology will help usher in a new era of personalized medicine – targeting the right treatment to the right patient at the right time with the potential to reduce drug therapy costs and manage health care sustainability.
“BC’s pharmacists want to be at the forefront of game-changing innovation that makes personalized medicine a reality,” says David Pavan, President of the BCPhA. “There are more than 1000 community pharmacies across the province which means all British Columbians can ultimately have access to this testing regardless of where they live.”
During the project’s first phase, the UBC team led by highly regarded researcher Dr. Corey Nislow will develop robust operating procedures for sample collection, processing and sequencing. Training and educational tools for patient awareness will also be developed. The project will focus on the drug warfarin, used widely for anticoagulation therapy, with information extracted from patient saliva samples.
“The time has arrived to translate the advances in next-generation sequencing technology into improved health outcomes,” says Dr. Corey Nislow. “This project takes a tiered approach to ensure that the outcomes will be easily implemented by community pharmacists.”
If Phase I successfully demonstrates the feasibility of community pharmacist-based pharmacogenomic testing, Phase II would be launched in a broader base of community pharmacies and offer patients the opportunity to provide their genetic information to guide therapeutic dosing decisions.
“This first phase of the project serves as the foundation for an important and much needed commercialization effort, which is exactly how we envisage Genome BC’s User Partnership Program working,” says Dr. Brad Popovich, Chief Scientific Officer, Genome BC. “Partnering with end-users and people who will be implementing this research is a key component of translational research.”
The project, valued at $400,000, was funded through Genome BC’s User Partnership Program (UPP) with 50 per cent of funding through BCPhA as the user partner. The UPP is designed to form partnerships with users to find research solutions that address the needs of the key sectors of the BC economy and directly connect receptors in BC economic sectors to new products, services and practices that arise from genomics-related research. The UPP represents an initial investment of $9M for new research projects, with $3M from Genome BC. The remaining funds are to be provided by user partners and other co-funders.
About Genome British Columbia
Genome British Columbia is a catalyst for the life sciences cluster on Canada’s West Coast, and manages a cumulative portfolio of over $660M in 211 research projects and science and technology platforms. Working with governments, academia and industry across sectors such as forestry, fisheries, agriculture, environment, bioenergy, mining and human health, the goal of the organization is to generate social and economic benefits for British Columbia and Canada. Genome BC is supported by the Province of British Columbia, the Government of Canada through Genome Canada and Western Economic Diversification Canada and more than 300 international public and private co-funding partners. www.genomebc.ca
About the British Columbia Pharmacy Association
The British Columbia Pharmacy Association is a not-for-profit professional association that represents more than 3,000 pharmacists and more than 850 pharmacies throughout British Columbia. Recognized as the voice for community pharmacy, the Association aims to support and advance the professional role and economic viability of its members so they may provide enhanced patient-centred care. www.bcpharmacy.ca