Research Discoveries are Making Precision Medicine a Reality

Pamala JacobsonIn Pamala Jacobson’s dream, every person who needs medical treatment will receive drugs that work for them—not, as sometimes happens today, drugs that don’t.

With global drug prices heading through the roof, Jacobson’s studies of how individuals’ traits determine which drugs will help them have become vital. Termed pharmacogenomics or precision medicine, it’s the wave of the future for the 21st century.

“A big concern of mine is that we can’t indiscriminately give medications without very good evidence that they’ll work. It’s not sustainable,” she said. “We have to be able to provide medicines only to people who will respond. I’m driven to discover better ways to match drugs to each individual.”

Her research involves finding matches between patients’ responses to drugs and particular traits like genes, age, sex, race or organ function. For example, a certain genetic sequence may be linked to how effective a drug is or the kinds and severity of
side effects. The goal is to match individual patients to the drugs that give them the most benefit and the mildest side effects.

Eventually, health care providers could have access to the genetic information on a patient that will tell them what the best drug is for that person—and every person will get the best treatment.

“I’m motivated to provide the people of Minnesota with the benefits of the advances being made in precision medicine,” said Jacobson. “I work in a field that’s new, moving forward, and with lots of research to be done. It’s never hard to get up in the morning.”