PHAR 2002: Precision Medicine and Health: Understanding the Personal Genome

Course Details


  • Live Zoom sessions
  • 3 credits
  • Offered Fall semester

This course is open to any student with an interest in the subject.

Course Materials
There is no required textbook for this course.

Course Directors
Pamala Jacobson, PharmD, FCCP
William Oetting, PhD

Email: or

Course Description

PDF icon Draft Syllabus - Fall 2021

This course is for students who want to understand the basic concepts of precision (or individualized) medicine and the impact of genetics on human health and medical care. The Human Genome Project is a game changer in understanding the differences between individuals. The ability to determine an individual’s entire DNA sequence, along with all of their inherited variation, provides an opportunity to more precisely predict, diagnose and treat disease, but it also causes some ethical concerns including categorizing an individual’s potential based on their DNA sequence and genetically engineering humans.

This course will help you understand how genetic individuality impacts who you are and why some individuals get a specific disease and others do not. The course will provide a brief introduction to molecular biology and then introduce different areas of precision medicine with an emphasis on the contribution of genetics for understanding predisposition, disease diagnosis and drug treatment. An important part of this course will be class discussions and exercises which will help the student better understand the concepts presented in the lectures.


Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Explain how differences in the DNA sequence of an individual can result in differences in disease susceptibility.
  • Describe how genetic testing is used to identify variation in the DNA sequence and then used to prevent or reduce disease and the complex interplay between genetics, environment and lifestyle.
  • Discuss how genetic variability in genes encoding drug metabolizing enzymes, drug transporting proteins, and drug receptors (targets) can contribute to variability in drug disposition and action, leading to changes in pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics and treatment success.
  • Discuss how precision medicine information is used in the clinic to more precisely diagnose and treat patients.
  • Describe the differences between germline and somatic mutations and the therapeutic
  • implications of the presence of somatic mutations in cancer.
  • Explain how emerging field of gene therapy will be used in precision medicine.
  • Recognize the societal and ethical implications of precision medicine and the big business of precision medicine.

Main Topics

The course is divided into these five main topics each with lectures and hands-on activities exploring the complexity and significance of each.

  • Why do we need DNA? What does DNA do?
  • What does DNA do and what happens when things go wrong?
  • It is not always yes or no. The complexity of genetics.
  • Cancer and Genetics
  • Jobs in Precision Medicine – Who are the professionals using genetics?
  • The impact of new genetic findings on society