Personalized Medicine takes Spotlight at Thought Leader Event


Meredith Hemler

Personalized medicine can take on many different meanings based on one’s perspective and experience, which made for lively debate as the topic took center stage at AstraZeneca’s latest thought leadership dinner held in Washington, D.C. in partnership with the National Journal. On Monday, October 20, AstraZeneca executives brought together industry leaders and stakeholders to discuss the current state and future of personalized medicine.

The event was the third of a series this year, the first focusing on patient centricity and the second on value in healthcare. Dave Fredrickson, Vice President, Specialty Care; Will Mongan, Vice President, Business Development, New Product Planning and Foundations Portfolio; and Rich Buckley, Vice President, North America Corporate Affairs led a group of 14 industry experts and executives – including patient advocates, providers, academia, media and other key stakeholders – in a discussion about the concept of personalized medicine.

Participants agreed that the paradigm of treatment and delivery for care in today’s healthcare system is rapidly shifting, and patients are at the heart of this transformation. Many attendees also agreed that regulations need to keep pace with innovation, and that some level of collaboration will be necessary across the system in order for doctors, academia, payers, providers, regulators and drug companies to produce meaningful outcomes. This is complicated by the fact that the roles of these key stakeholders are changing, making it more difficult to reach a consensus about what matters to patients and what the guideposts for development should be.

Rich Buckley, Vice President, North America Corporate Affairs and Dave Fredrickson, Vice President, Specialty Care, mingle with guests.

(Left to right) Sheila Walcoff, Chief Executive Officer and Founder, Goldbug Strategies, LLC; Marilyn Werber Serafini, Vice President, Policy, Alliance for Health Reform; Will Mongan, Vice President, Business Development, AstraZeneca; J. Russell Teagarden, Senior Vice President, Medical and Scientific Affairs, National Organization for Rare Disorders

Patients are becoming increasingly involved in their own care and diagnosis, along with their doctors. This allows greater potential for doctors to personalize patient care and to observe patients in real-time to improve outcomes and adherence. Attendees said that in order to determine the most appropriate treatment for patients, providers need to be able to analyze in rapid form. The current regulatory system contains administrative and procedural hurdles that call for more evidence and increased scientific validity. In order to keep up with the current transformation, we need to reexamine the burden of proof with respect to evidence, as well as approaches to clinical practice and innovation to ensure that treatments can become more patient-centric.

While seeking a common definition for personalized medicine, some participants talked about it as a goal, others as an art or a tool; some defined it as precision medicine, and others thought the definition was unimportant. All participants agreed that the system must shift in terms of regulation, though some called for a fundamental redesign, while others asked simply for incremental changes. One participant added that no matter what we call it, we are all united in our collective goal to provide cures to patients in a world of transformation.

The dinner was part of a series of events coordinated by National Journal LIVE, a premier events business that convenes top leaders in the Washington, D.C. area to discuss possible solutions to the country’s biggest challenges.

(Left to right) Paul Sheives, Director, Diagnostics and Personalized Medicine Policy, Biotechnology Industry Organization; Robert Wright, Chief Editor, Life Science Leader Magazine; Sheila Walcoff, Chief Executive Officer and Founder, Goldbug Strategies, LLC