PrecisionMed International: the future of population health

How can we improve population health? A burning question that researchers are working tirelessly to address. By uncovering the social, environmental, and genetic determinants that can impact risk of disease, we can understand the strategies needed to ensure everyone has a long and healthy life.

In an interview published by PrecisionMed International, Dr Kathleen Barnes, SVP for Population Health and Precision Medicine at Oxford Nanopore Technologies, shares her views on population health, and why nanopore sequencing has the potential to transform how we understand and treat conditions.

Profile photograph of Kathleen Barnes

What is precision medicine?

Precision medicine is the use of tools to improve the way we predict and treat disease at an individual level. In practice, this could mean screening for conditions that require immediate treatment in newborns, or identifying those who are predisposed to develop cancer or heart disease. These tools provide information for doctors so they can react to an individual’s change in health, but also proactively identify those who need more support or a different treatment approach.

For Kathleen, the use of genetic sequencing is key for a healthier future.

My vision aligns closely with the company’s [Oxford Nanopore Technologies’] goal to improve health and quality of life for every individual, their family, and community, all through precision medicine tools.’

What is holding us back?

‘I’m an eternal optimist; we’ve been discussing the potential of genomics since the sequencing of the human genome decades ago.’

Despite the scientific developments that have occurred since the publication of the human genome, we are still only on the cusp of integrating precision medicine fully into healthcare. The logistics of implementing genetic sequencing into a range of healthcare systems means that all key stakeholders need to be shown that costs can be saved, and quality of life improved, from the use of precision medicine tools.

With a platform that enables sequencing by anyone, anywhere; we can begin to address this barrier.

How could nanopore sequencing help?

Kathleen and her team’s mission is to encourage the adoption of Oxford Nanopore at the point of care, so it could be used as a precision medicine tool throughout a patient's journey. The portability, speed, and affordability of the Oxford Nanopore platform mean that it could be possible for any clinical laboratory around the world to have this tool at their disposal.

‘We’re actively expanding our impact in precision medicine, with powerful, real-world applications that are transforming how we understand and treat various conditions.’

Some of these applications include a potential tool for the detection of variants linked to spinal muscular atrophy, rapid genetic sequencing of individuals in intensive care, and real-time tumour classification during brain surgery.

With an ever increasing number of researchers using nanopore sequencing to understand disease, the goal to improve population health is in reach.

Want to read more? You can access the full interview, and read the views of Gordon Sanghera (CEO of Oxford Nanopore Technologies) on access to rapid genetic testing, in the latest version of Precision Med International.