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Researcher: Predictive medicine to reduce costs
After decades of skyrocketing global medical treatment outlays.
After decades in which the global outlays for medical treatment have skyrocketed, costs for diagnosis and treatment will drop significantly in five to 10 years, as electronic chips use a drop of blood to identify proteins and the risk of diseases they represent, a leading biomedical researcher predicted on Sunday.

Prof. Leroy Hood, a founder and the president of the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle, told an overflow lecture at Jerusalem’s Israel Academy of Sciences and the Humanities that the coming “revolution” in biomedical science will “democratize medicine.”

He added that this new technology “will generate billions of data points on each individual, and everything will be much more inexpensive.”

He is one of nine of the world’s leading researchers in biomedicine – seven of them from abroad – who came to the Jerusalem academy for two days to mark its 50th anniversary.

The holder of 14 patents and the author of more than 650 peer-reviewed published journal articles, Hood is an advocate of “P4 medicine” – which he says will bring about a new era of predictive, preventive, personalized and participatory medicine.

His research has brought about the discovery of an automated gene sequencer and synthesizer, a protein sequencer and synthesizer, and an inkjet microarray-technology that enables the sequencing of the human genome. Hood predicted that deciphering an individual genome will become cheap – about $500 apiece, allowing medical treatment to be tailored to the individual patient.

Rather than reacting to symptoms of disease, when successful treatment might be too late, Hood said, patients will go to their physicians for an annual checkup, have their genetic codes tested and be told whether they are at high risk of getting a disease in the future and what can be done – by changing lifestyle or taking medications – to avoid it.

“We already have a chip that can identify 50 proteins in minutes. We want to do it to thousands,” he said.

There has never been such a conference in Israel, said Israel Academy of Sciences vice president and Weizmann Institute of Science researcher Prof. Ruth Arnon.

The level of the biomedical scientists in attendance – including Israel’s Nobel Prize laureate in Chemistry Prof. Ada Yonath who described her long work on the cells’ protein factory, the ribosome – is extremely high, and the conference brought together not just leading Israeli scientists but also dozens of students at the beginning of their careers.

The other participants are: Prof. Arthur Beaudet, chairman of the department of molecular and human genetics at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas; Prof. Fotis Kafatos, chairman of immunogenomics at the Imperial College London; Prof. Mary-Claire King of the departments of medicine and genome sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle; Prof. Eric Lander, president of the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and professor of systems biology at Harvard Medical School; Prof. Matthias Mann, director of the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in the department of proteomics and signal transduction in Martinsried, German; Prof. Rino Rappuoli, global head of vaccines research at Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics in Siena, Italy; Prof. Michel Revel of the Weizmann Institute of Science’s department of molecular genetics in Rehovot and chairman of the Israel National Bioethics Council; Prof. David Scadden, co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and director of the Center for Regenerative Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital; and Prof. Axel Ullrich of the department of molecular biology at Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried, Germany.
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