How Personalized is Personalized Medicine?


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Just how personalized is today’s personalized medicine? Krister Wennerberg, Labcyte customer and collaborator at Finland’s Institute for Molecular Medicine (FIMM) discussed the topic on Mendelspod, highlighting a novel way that his institute is combining different types of studies to make treatment more individualized.

FIMM’s “individualized systems medicine” combines traditional molecular profiling with functional profiling and clinical information in order to get a better picture of the patient’s disease, he explains. The group first tested this approach, which involves taking primary cells from patients and testing their cells ex vivo with a variety of drugs to see what kills the cancer, in patients with late-stage leukemia. The idea is to have a quick way of predicting what a patient might respond to.

“The question is how can we find new therapies that work for new subpopulations of a disease and then with that, over time, have a better cure rate of a disease,” he says. In addition, they are looking at how to predict effectiveness of drug combinations, “because ultimately, in most cases, we are going to need combinations of drugs to treat these diseases.”

Wennerberg described how acoustic dispensing, which provides the ability to move nanoliter volumes of liquids with sound, enables this work. “That’s very powerful when you add the drugs to the cells,” he says, noting they can add the drugs at whatever volume they want and in whichever well they want, and can do combinations very effectively.

He describes the power of using acoustic liquid handling to add the cells to the plates because, when working with very small numbers of cells, conventional liquid handling may actually have too much dead volume and lose all the cells in the tubing. “We also like it for other types of follow-up assays,” he says. “So it’s a technology we rely on a lot for many different parts of the process…The big point is to get as much as possible out of the samples, and it allows us to do that.”

Tune in at to listen to the full conversation. You can also read more about FIMM’s work here.