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Personalized treatment with medications: pharmacogenomic testing for better patient outcomes

(Vienna, 12-02-2016) The European Union H2020 programme has awarded a €15 million grant to the Ubiquitous Pharmacogenomics (U-PGx) consortium, whose project aims to establish a firm foundation for ‘Making actionable pharmacogenomic data and effective treatment optimization accessible to every European citizen’. The Medical University of Vienna plays a key role in the project, which will implement pharmacogenomic testing and computer-based decision support for 8,000 patients in 7 European countries to investigate whether this emerging approach is cost-effective and results in better patient outcomes.


On the 19th and 20th January 2016, a kick-off meeting marked the start of the project and was attended by 35 participating researchers and clinicians from 10 EU countries.


Matthias Samwald at the Center for Medical Statistics, Informatics, and Intelligent Systems acts as executive board member and work package leader responsible for clinical decision support interventions. He explains that numerous studies have shown that genetic variation in genes encoding drug transporters and drug metabolizing enzymes affects drug response, resulting in potentially harmful under- or overdosing of affected individuals. Pharmacogenomic testing could help to account for these individual differences when drugs are prescribed. However, uncertainty about when pharmacogenomic testing could benefit patients and a lack of appropriate information technologies for assisting medical professionals have hindered widespread implementation of the technology thus far.


A part of the international clinical trial will be conducted at the Department of Internal Medicine III under the guidance of Gere Sunder-Plassmann, where pharmacogenomic testing will be used to optimize treatment of renal transplant patients.


The project will implement a novel approach called pre-emptive pharmacogenomic testing. Data on all genes with clinically significant impact on drug response will be collected with a single, cheap genetic test. This way, genetic patient data and personalized treatment guidelines are available to optimize dosing of a wide variety of common pharmaceuticals whenever and wherever needed. 


Samwald expects pharmacogenomics to eventually become an integral part of routine health care: “We envision a future in which data on important pharmacogenomic risk factors of each patient are as common as data on blood type or cholesterol are today. Combined with user-friendly digital decision support tools, this could usher in safer and more effective drug therapy across the entire healthcare system”.

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