by the ITFoM Consortium
The IT Future of Medicine (ITFoM) initiative will produce computational models of individuals to enable the prediction of their future health risks, progression of diseases and selection and efficacy of treatments while minimizing side effects. As one of six Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) Flagship Pilot Projects funded by the European Commission, ITFoM will foster massive advances in ICT to enable the generation of these models and, moreover, to make them available for clinical application. The programme will yield long term benefits for the medicine of the future and will lead the way towards truly personalized health care.
Since the sequencing of the first human genome ten years ago, at a cost of some three billion dollars, analytical technologies in the life sciences have advanced at a tremendous rate. Next generation sequencing (NGS) methods are rapidly reducing the costs of obtaining a human genome sequence (currently around $20,000) and this trend will undoubtedly continue, soon resulting in costs under $1,000. This highly detailed information about an individual’s genetic makeup can be enriched with data gathered through other advanced analytical techniques (like mass spectroscopy and advanced imaging methodologies) to give an unprecedented insight into the functioning of a person’s cells, tissues, organs, and even the individual as a whole. However, mere collection of these data has very limited use in a clinical setting. An analytical system is required to integrate these heterogeneous and complex data into something useful.
Systems biology offers the methodologies and tools to analyse, integrate and interpret biological data, providing mathematical conceptualizations, or models, of biological processes which may then be simulated computationally. The ITFoM project will produce a “Virtual Patient” system that can integrate all of these data into personalized models of individual people, enabling predictions based on lifestyle choices and medical interventions on a tailored case-by-case basis.
To implement this vision and see the use of “Virtual Patients” become part of standard clinical practice, substantial advances must be made in underpinning hardware and software infrastructures, computational paradigms and human computer interfaces, as well as in the instrumentation and automation of techniques required to gather all relevant information. These datasets will then be integrated to provide detailed models for the “Virtual Patients” and will thus enable the provision of concrete health advice on a personal basis.
ITFoM is a consortium of nearly 50 academic institutions and industrial partners with unparalleled expertise in ICT, life sciences, public health and medicine. Together they will address for the first time the ICT implications of worldwide-individualized patient care in combination with genomics and medical requirements. Ultimately this will revolutionize our health care with enormous benefits for health (prevention, diagnosis and therapy), a reduction in costs by individualizing combinations of a limited number of drugs and reducing side effects of treatments. Valuable research tools will help to discover and validate potential drug treatments, and new commercial opportunities in ICT, analytics and health care. Within the next 10 years we will see the vision of a “Virtual Patient” vision start to become reality and begin to reap the rewards afforded by this huge, and necessary, advance in technology.
ITFoM Future of Medicine
c/o Max Planck Institute of Molecular Genetics, Germany