Dr. David Williams, Boston Children’s Hospital’s newly appointed chief scientific officer, is also president of the Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center and director of Clinical & Translational Research at Boston Children’s. Vector connected with him to get his forecast on where biomedical research and therapeutic development will go in the year ahead.
What do you see emerging in medical science in 2017?
Genetics/genomics will increasingly be used to tailor therapies, for germline-mutated (inherited) diseases as well as somatic-mutated diseases (cancer and other environment-related diseases). We will see continued testing of therapeutic approaches based on genetics, such as gene therapy and anti-sense technology, in a wide range of disorders. Pharmacogenetics, or the use of genomics to adjust dosages of drugs, will also continue to advance and will include “point of service” testing in the future.
What changes do you predict in the research arena?
I foresee increasing interdependence of academic research and biopharma. Biopharma will increasingly rely on academic institutions, not only for human clinical trials, but also for defining relevant and druggable pathways. Industry can then do what it does best: develop drugs. Research-focused institutions like ours will be increasingly dependent on philanthropy and biopharma for capital, because the NIH research budget is likely to never completely recover, in my view. In fact, new approaches will likely include three-way partnerships: biopharma, academia and disease-specific philanthropic organizations. Research institutions would do well to facilitate these partnerships. In pediatrics, this means a continued focus on the basis of pediatric diseases, but also on developing a more robust infrastructure for pediatric clinical trials. Many advancements in adult medicine come from fundamental discoveries made at leading pediatric research institutions.
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