Many of our most common medicines are not effective in treating large numbers of the patients they are supposed to help and more than six percent of acute hospital admissions are caused by serious adverse reactions to medicines. Moreover healthcare costs across the EU are rising as the population ages and chronic diseases become more prevalent. Personalised medicine addresses these challenges, with tailor-made prevention and treatment strategies for individuals or groups of individuals. As a result, patients receive the specific therapies that work best for them, and no money is wasted on trial and error treatments. Personalised medicine is a fast-growing market and Europe's healthcare industry has the potential to build on its leading position, providing economic growth and jobs.
Although there is no universally accepted definition, the Horizon 2020 Advisory Group has defined personalised medicine as "a medical model using characterization of individuals’ phenotypes and genotypes (e.g. molecular profiling, medical imaging, lifestyle data) for tailoring the right therapeutic strategy for the right person at the right time, and/or to determine the predisposition to disease and/or to deliver timely and targeted prevention". This definition was also used by EU Health Ministers in their Council conclusions on personalised medicine for patients, published in December 2015.
It is important to note that that personalised medicine does not only concern medicines or medicinal products. A better understanding of the biological mechanisms and environmental interactions that govern health and disease will impact the entire health care continuum, from health research to patient care. The move towards personalised medicine can be seen as an evolutionary rather than revolutionary process. Although some personalised medicine approaches have already been introduced into practice in Europe, we are still at an early stage of implementation. Significant paradigm shifts will need to take place in medical research and health care for this innovative area to be fully exploited.
On the agenda
Over 30 European and international members representing research funders and policy-making organisations, together with the European Commission as observer, have established an initiative called the International Consortium for Personalised Medicine, or "ICPerMed". The ICPerMed was officially launched in November 2016.
Together, the member organisations of ICPerMed will work to:
- Establish Europe as a global leader in personalised medicine research
- Support the personalised medicine science base through a coordinated approach to research
- Provide evidence to demonstrate the benefit of personalised medicine to citizens and healthcare systems
- Pave the way for personalised medicine approaches for citizens
ICPerMed will focus on fostering and coordinating research and innovation actions to deliver on its mission statement. Over the past year, the members of ICPerMed have developed a common Action Plan with central research and research-supporting activities in all areas relevant to personalised medicine.
Read more about the initiative and the Action Plan.
The Personalised Medicine Conference 2016 held in Brussels on 1-2 June 2016 explored personalised medicine through a research policy lens. It also informed the continued work with ICPerMed's Action Plan. You can find more information about the conference, including all presentations, session videos and a report on the conference website.
Further readingAn overview of the progress made in personalised medicine, with a specific focus on '-omics' technologies and a discussion about the opportunities and challenges it presents for healthcare systems in Europe, can be found in the staff working document published by the Commission on 31 October 2013.
- The contribution of EU regions to Research and Innovation for Personalised Medicine ( 299 KB)
- -Omics in Personalised Medicine, 29-30 April 2010 – Summary Report ( 159 KB)
- Biomarkers for Patient Stratification, 10-11 June 2010 – Summary Report ( 153 KB)
- Personalised Medicine – Opportunities and Challenges for European Healthcare, 7 October 2010 – Workshop Report ( 114 KB)
- European Perspectives in Personalised Medicine, 12-13 May 2011 – Conference Report ( 423 KB)