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NIH Director Francis Collins Opens Day Two at BIO International Convention

June 17, 2015

What happens when a hotel loses Francis Collins’ room reservation late on the eve before he is scheduled to speak at the BIO International Convention? He finds a way around the barriers and still manages to inspire, entertain and impress the masses the very next morning.

Which may help describe his approach to personalized medicine to overcome barriers and surpass expectations. Collins shared his vision for transforming the practice of medicine through personalized medicine with a standing room only crowd in Philadelphia.

“The cost of sequencing the genome going down is helping to drive success in personalized medicine,” said Dr. Collins. He then stressed the urgent need for progress. “We know the molecular basis for 5,500 conditions, yet we only have therapies for approximately 500 conditions.”

Collins described the barriers, primarily focusing on the cost to develop drugs, which is impacting the availability of new therapies. He pointed to a Nature Reviews Drug Discovery chart that shows a ‘troubling downward curve.’ Researchers called the chart “Eroom Law,” which is Moore Law backwards. “Instead of getting better, it’s been getting worse,” said Collins. Collins went on to predict that this trend line will turn upward in the future.

Collins pointed to several reasons for optimism surrounding personalized medicine. The availability of big data can be a tremendous asset to researchers, but Collins emphasized that we have to figure out how to store, provide access, and incentivize researchers and others to share data. He also pointed to the numerous cohort studies already in existence that can be melded together. He also pointed to the growing interest from patients and participants to share data, in addition to the availability of electronic health records and increasingly sophisticated mobile health technology.

He closed with an inspiring quote from Architect Daniel Burnham, “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work.”

The Convention continues through Thursday.