APR 07, 2016 10:00 AM PDT

Molecular Medicine in Healthcare: The Personalized Medicine Initiative

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  • Chair, Personalized Medicine Initiative, Director, Life Sciences Institute, University of British Columbia
      Dr. Pieter Cullis completed his PhD in Physics at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in 1972 and then pursued postdoctoral training in biochemistry at the University of Oxford as an MRC postdoctoral fellow and at the University of Utrecht as a fellow of the European Molecular Biology Organization. He joined the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at UBC in 1978 and was appointed professor in 1985.

      Dr. Cullis is an internationally recognized pioneer and leader in the field of lipids, biological membranes and liposomal drug delivery systems. His drug delivery systems have produced improved formulations of several cancer therapies as well as other drug agents. His lipid nanoparticles delivery system is a leading technology worldwide, enabling the therapeutic potential of siRNA. He has published over 300 scientific articles.

      He has been very active in the development of several biotechnology companies and is recognized as a remarkable researcher and innovator. His work has led to three drugs that have been approved by regulatory agencies in the U.S. and Europe for the treatment of cancer and its complications and five more that have finished Phase I clinical studies. He has trained many graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, several of whom have gone on to distinguished careers in their own right.

      Dr. Cullis co-founded The Canadian Liposome Company, Inex Pharmaceuticals (now Tekmira Pharmaceuticals), Northern Lipids Inc., Lipex Biomembranes Inc., and, most recently, Acuitas Pharmaceuticals, Precision NanoSystems and Mesentech Inc. In addition, he co-founded and was Scientific Director of the Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD) 2004-2010. He has been part of management teams that have raised over $200M in the biotechnology sector in BC. He is an inventor on over 40 patents.


    The Personalized Medicine Initiative (PMI) is a non-profit enterprise based in Vancouver, Canada that is focused on introducing personalized, molecularly-based medicine into the front lines of healthcare. The PMI is taking advantage of new technologies that increasingly allow individuals to be analyzed at the molecular level in a rapid and cost-effective manner. These analyses  enables both effective preventive medicine as more precise diagnostics to accurately match therapy to disease. The PMI is pursuing an “end-to-end” approach. First, the PMI has developed the resources necessary to construct the genomic, proteomic, metabolomic and microbiomic “data clouds” around individuals to determine their risks of disease, diagnose overt disease and monitor response to therapy. These “molecular you” profiles are now being generated by a PMI company called the Molecular You Corporation (MYCO). Second, in order to use molecular level information clinicians require clinical decision support systems (CDSS) to assist them in deciding on the most appropriate therapy. Again, the PMI has formed a company called GenXys to develop CDSS to assist the prescription practices of family doctors. The MYCO molecular you profiles are proving remarkably useful for early detection of disease and to guide lifestyle and diet changes to correct trends towards disease. GenXys, on the other hand, is commercializing a simple genetic test to guide drug prescription to avoid adverse drug reactions. This is achieved by construction of algorithms that incorporate genetic information together with standard clinical information to guide prescription of over 200 commonly prescribed drugs. 

    Learning Objectives:

    1. Integrated Omics (proteomic, genomic, microbiomic, metabolomic) profiling can be of use for empowering individuals to practice more effective preventive healthcare.
    2. Molecular level information can be used by family physicians to assist in drug prescription on an individualized basis.

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