The field of medicine is in the process of being profoundly transformed by new technologies; much of this transformation comes from exciting advances in genomics.
Although genomics is relatively unknown to the general public, innovations in the field have started to make headlines: Genetic testing startup 23andMe, the “gene editing” technology CRISPR and the ambitious 100,000 Genomes Project have all come into the public eye.
Whether perceived with hope or suspicion by patients or governments, the new frontiers opened by these innovations are undeniably leading to unprecedented opportunities for better health — an issue that’s demonstrating great appeal with more and more VCs and business angels. So what can we expect in the coming year from the field of genomics?
A new definition of “early detection” for cancers
The last wave of innovation in terms of technology and detection of cancers, namely screening programs such as mammograms, colonoscopies, etc., has brought a great deal of efficiency.
But this type of exam has led us to an idea of “early stage” that is relative: By the time a tumor can show up through mammography or on a CT scan, it has already grown to a certain size. True “early detection” will come about when we change the scale of our capabilities and are looking at the molecular level of our physiology, namely through research on the epigenome and epigenetic marks.
We’ve developed technologies such as liquid biopsies that can detect cancer DNA even in the first several days after its arrival. Researchers also have discovered five epigenetic marks for cancer, and we can expect more to come.