Investing in Personalized Medicine

February 06, 2021
Our Government has remained committed to a publicly-funded, universally accessible health care system. It’s a system that we all use and continue to count on for our families and friends. We, of course, want to see a strong, sustainable health system that provides all Canadians with timely access to the best health care possible. This is why our Government recently introduced an investment in personalized medicine to ensure our health care system is always there for Canadians.

On January 31st, the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health, together with the Honourable Gary Goodyear, Minister of State for Science and Technology, announced that a $67.5 million investment ($22.5 million from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research [CIHR], $40 million from Genome Canada, and $5 million from the Cancer Stem Cell Consortium) to support funding of research teams in the areas of personalized medicine. This type of medicine offers the potential to transform the delivery of medical treatment to patients. The genetic make-up of the individual, the environment, and the specific course taken by the disease/condition all influence the outcome of a disease and the effectiveness of its treatment. Treatments must evolve from “one size fits all” to a tailoring of treatments and other interventions to the specific characteristics of the individual. This personalized approach will be possible through the use of new diagnostic technologies that look at patients’ unique genetic signatures and other indicators of disease, called “biomarkers.”

This competition marks the first phase of CIHR’s Personalized Medicine Signature Initiative. The goal of this initiative is to engage biomedical, clinical, population health, health economics, ethics, and policy researchers, as well as provincial health authorities, in an undertaking to identify health care issues that are suitable for a personalized medicine approach. This initiative will ultimately support “knowledge translation” research to educate and advise front-line health care workers on how personalized medicine can be used for more effective prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disease. For example, we might be able to screen cancer patients to see who would respond to chemotherapy and who would not.

The areas where personalized medicine is showing promise include: oncology, cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, psychiatric disorders, diabetes, obesity, arthritis, pain, and Alzheimer’s disease. In each of these areas and others, a personalized molecular medicine approach is anticipated to assist with better health outcomes, improved treatments, and reduction in toxicity due to variable or adverse drug responses.

Our Government’s latest investments in health care will help preserve Canada’s health care system so it is always there when Canadians need it. Through innovative approaches such as personalized medicine, we will gain significant health benefits, enhance our knowledge, and ensure our health care system is sustainable now and into the future.