The 8th Annual Open Meeting of the UK Pharmacogenetics & Stratified Medicine Network will take place on October 20, 2021 at the Royal College of Physicians, London. The meeting will be held as a hybrid event, with speakers and delegates in person at the venue, as well as an additional audience of delegates viewing the talks online. The venue has all the necessary protocols to present a safe event, while the innovative virtual platform provides an engaging experience for online delegates.
Session One will be introduced by Professor Sir Munir Pirmohamed and will set the scene for the day, featuring talks from Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, Dr June Raine, and Dr Robert Scott from GSK.
Session Two will showcase the work of early career researchers Dr James Yarmolinsky, Dr Amaya Viros and Dr Emma Davenport.
Session Three will address COVID-19. Professor Sarah Gilbert will speak on the topic of vaccine development as part of pandemic preparedness, Professor Sharon Peacock will deliver the talk "In pursuit of actionable information derived from SARS-CoV-2 genomes," and Dr Clark Russell will discuss the genetic mechanisms of critical illness.
Session Four will look to the future, featuring Professor Stuart Ralston and Dr Pearse Keane, closing with Professor Dame Anna Dominiczak's intriguing talk "Precision Medicine - What is the Future?"
In person delegates will be able to meet colleagues from across all sectors, creating the opportunity for new collaborations and research partnerships.
Online delegates will be able to benefit from talks presented by world-class speakers without the need to travel.
All delegates, those at the venue and those viewing the talks online, will have the same opportunity to engage with speakers and chairs in the Q&A session that follows each talk, via the RCP virtual platform.
Ann Daly is Professor of Pharmacogenetics at Newcastle University, and a member of the UK Pharmacogenetics & Stratified Medicine Network Steering Committee. We spoke with Ann to find out about her scientific background and her views on pharmacogenetics in drug safety.
Please can you tell us about your background?
"My original background is that I did a BSC and PhD in Biochemistry. During my PhD I did some biochemical work on drug metabolism and drug-drug interactions. Then I went to Switzerland and did a postdoc in the area of molecular biology, so moved away from what I was doing during my PhD. I then moved to Newcastle to another postdoc where I was working on retinoic acid, which started off as an extension of what I'd been doing in Geneva to some extent, but also represented a moving back to some of what I'd been doing during my PhD and having spent about four years working on retinoids, I then got an opportunity to apply for a more senior post when a new research group was being set up in Newcastle on pharmacogenetics.
"At that stage, the emphasis was on cytochrome P450 and I had some knowledge of the subject from the sort of things I'd been doing during my PhD so that seemed like an obvious way to go and that's really how I got into pharmacogenetics and I have stayed in this area since. I started the senior post in pharmacogenetics about 1990, so I've been working quite a while in this area now.There was quite a lot of interest in the area worldwide at that time, but it was different sorts of things that were being done, such as cloning genes and starting to study polymorphisms, but sequencing in those days was very difficult, so the amount of progress you could make on polymorphisms was a bit more limited."
Pharmacogenetics enables us to use drugs more safely, to predict people in whom good drugs will not be safe, so that they can be treated differently. Safety is the most important thing.
How did you come to join the UKPGx Network Steering Committee?
"I got to know Munir four or five years after I started working in the area of pharmacogenetics, he was starting off in the subject, too. One of my colleagues had done a PhD with Kevin Park of the University of Liverpool, so that led to some collaboration there."
What do you see as the benefits of the Network?
"I think there are two things: one is that it has a very good website, and the second thing is that the meetings, especially the open meetings, are well attended. There's a lot of interest in them because there's nothing quite like it in the UK. The audience comes from a variety of backgrounds, academics and clinicians but also SMEs. There’s quite a bit of SME activity in this area now, and these types of companies tend to be more represented at the Network Open Meeting than at meetings I’ve seen elsewhere. This provides them with an important opportunity because forming partnerships with people in other sectors is essential for the success of their projects."
What do you see as the future for pharmacogenetics?
"As new drugs are developed, we should be building in pharmacogenetics at an early stage in the research program. In the future, it’s going to be easier to genotype patients. But we're still in a situation where pharmacogenetics gets introduced at quite a late stage into development programs, and it really needs to be there early in the process and not be seen as a barrier."
Why is this important?
"Pharmacogenetics enables us to use drugs more safely, to predict people in whom good drugs will not be safe, so that they can be treated differently. Safety is the most important thing."
The latest report from the PHG Foundation, commissioned by Genomics England, examines the legal and ethical implications of an online platform for patient engagement in precision medicine research being developed by Sano Genetics.
In May 2020, Genomics England announced that it was collaborating with precision medicine research start-up Sano Genetics and data management firm Zetta Genomics to develop a platform that would allow rare disease patients and their caregivers to add vital additional information about their health and wellbeing to research databases.The platform, which is being funded through a grant from Innovate UK, is being designed to add a vital layer of patient-derived information to the ground-breaking research being carried out through Genomics England.
The platform will lay the groundwork for better capturing additional data directly from patients and their families to learn about disease progression and treatment effectiveness from their perspective. Collecting information about health and wellbeing directly from patients will help fill in the blanks between infrequent doctor visits.
In addition to a separate internal assessment being carried out by Genomics England, the PHG Foundation report has assessed the impact of the platform’s features and applications on patients. It has found that the system potentially offers opportunities to enrich existing datasets, such as those held within Genomics England’s National Genomic Research Library, and will also help enhance engagement with patients undergoing treatment.
The report recommends support for patients who may be less digitally literate and includes considerations for policymakers. It also suggests that clarity, personalisation and engagement with patients could provide a blueprint for realising the promise of the technology, while minimising potential harm.
KTN’s Medimap provides a dynamic representation of the UK’s end-to-end medicines supply chain covering organisations involved in the discovery, development and manufacture of medicines, as well as those supporting the sector.
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