AURORA, Colo – On September 10, at the invitation of Rep. Diana DeGette (D) and Rep. Fred Upton (R), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Dan Theodorescu, MD, PhD, director of the University of Colorado Cancer Center, took part in a panel on the future of biomedical innovation in the United States and what can be done to get new, effective treatments to people who need them. The panel, in Washington, DC, also included Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, Sylvia Burwell, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Margaret Hamburg, commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, William Parfet, chairman and CEO of MPI Research, the inventor Dean Kamen, and the philanthropist Michael Milken.
The 21st Century Cures Roundtable was the last in a series of roundtables sponsored by DeGette, a Democrat from Denver, and Upton, a Republican from Michigan. DeGette and Upton sit on different sides of the aisle but share an interest in ensuring that the United States remains the world’s innovator in healthcare and biosciences. The purpose of the panel was to gather expertise from leaders in the field of health care innovation and personalized medicine to shape the future of medicine in the U.S.
Specifically, Dr. Theodorescu used his perspective as one of the country’s top cancer researchers to contribute the point of view that the U.S. is in danger of losing its biomedical edge to countries that are aggressively funding research into personalized medicine.
“Personalized and precision medicine and how we do it is really the central challenge of our moment in time,” said Theodorescu. “The United States has built an incredible genomic engine and infrastructure and has resulted in a lot of technology to really push forward biotechnology in medicine. It would be a shame now to not capitalize on that.”
Encouraged by DeGette, Congress is taking a comprehensive look at what can be done to accelerate the pace of cures in the United States. She is working with colleagues to draft legislation that will address the biomedical process—from the basic-science discovery phase to streamlining drug and device development to delivering personalized, targeted treatments to patients.
According to Theodorescu, part of the system overhaul of bringing cures from biology to bedside is rethinking the process for clinical trial patient consent, which he knows from extensive experience is too costly and complicated. In Theodorescu’s opinion, a centralized institutional review board could bring trials to patients quicker and more efficiently. (Currently, clinical trials must be approved at each institution enrolling participants, leading to lengthy reviews.)
“Patients are the heart and soul of personalized medicine. We really rely on them. We are eternally grateful for their participation,” said Theodorescu. “We need to encourage [patients] to participate, which means removing barriers.”
According to Theodorescu, easing participation in clinical trials also removes barriers for young scientists. “People that want to do translational research in medicine have to have a clear career path and have to be able to spend their time getting trials done, getting patients on trial. If the barriers to accruing patients are so high, then we’re going get progressively fewer young investigators wanting to embark on those careers,” Theodorescu says.
Interdisciplinary panels such as this that bring together leaders in their fields – from policy to science to philanthropy and beyond – ensure that the most informed voices are heard as we move from yesterday’s era of one-size-fits-all care and into the future of truly personalized medicine.