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‘Personalized Medicine’ Featured at JSM, AAAS Annual Meetings

1 May 2011 No Comment

As representative from the ASA to AAAS in biological sciences, ASA life member Turkan Gardenier organized “Evolutionary Personalized Medicine,” a symposium assigned to the Human Biology and Health track of the 2011 Annual Meetings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), held in Washington, DC, in February. A follow-up will be held on August 3 in Miami Beach, Florida, with the JSM 2011 panel titled “Personalized Medicine and Convergence: Prospects for Statisticians,” sponsored by the Section on Health Policy Statistics and ENAR.

From right: Speakers Alan Shuldiner, Sholom Wacholder, and Knut Wittkowski talk after the AAAS symposium.

From left: Speakers Knut Wittkowski, Sholom Wacholder, and Alan Shuldiner talk after the AAAS symposium.

Gardenier delivered the following introductory statement at the AAAS meeting:

Mapping the human genome has opened a vast array of possibilities for the path to successful health intervention. Personalization has become more attainable through simultaneous advances in the mega/giga/terrabyte world of computers and gene identification techniques. Now there are genomic markers in addition to biomarkers. Akin to zeroing in on a specific geographic location using latitude and longitude and attaching relevant information for that specific point, not for group-based averages, in health-based studies, we are now zeroing in on the individual in order to determine what is best for whom.

Yet, during this process, we find that there is not, and should not be, a one-to-one mapping between an attained statistical significance and immediate action. There are caveats—in linking isolated genes with traits, we need to acknowledge individual variability and study diverse populations; we need to pool results, select cases and controls, and deal with quality control issues. Disseminating information becomes crucial in order to enable not only cost-benefit, but also risk-benefit assessments.

Outside of biology, within mathematical modeling EVOP, or evolutionary operations, involves a method called “steepest ascent”—that is a ‘best’ direction whereby the benefit at each step of the analytic process moves toward an optimum—much like our selective use of a gradually changing array of resources toward individualized risk identification and early intervention.”

These two sessions were preceded by an invited session during JSM 2009 titled “Perspectives in Genomics Research,” which was sponsored by the Committee of Representatives to AAAS.

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