Updated on 10 March 2014
Then there are emotional and philosophical issues: If your genes reveal you are likely to get a disease for which there is no prevention or cure, would you even want to know? Are we developing the support and counseling infrastructure to help ordinary people process this flood of new self-knowledge?
I believe questions such as these present a case not for turning away from personalized medicine, but for proceeding thoughtfully and prudently. We are just starting to gain a full understanding of the astounding potential benefits of such research. We have a responsibility to venture ever further into this realm with the self-awareness to reap the benefits, while simultaneously mitigating the risks.
Both the Canadian and Ontario governments recognize this need, and are investing heavily: Programs such as Compute Canada and Compute Ontario are investing heavily in IT infrastructure including biological and health informatics. Genome Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation invest heavily in a user and industry-focused initiative called the Genomics Applications Partnership Program. Following a $150 million investment in large-scale personalized medicine research programs, new investments (including approximately $100 million from Genome Canada) are being made in related genomics research in the agriculture and energy sectors.
I believe these investments reflect a commitment and ambition for Ontario to play a leadership role in this transformational field. This province has such a powerful and integrated network of universities and robust life sciences and technology sectors that it makes sense to invest in groundbreaking work that reverberates around the world.
In the sixteen years since the OGI was formed, the field of genomics research and personalized medicine has transformed beyond all imagination Sequencing the first human genome took hundreds of millions of dollars. Now it costs less than $1,000 and the price will soon be reduced to little more than pocket change.