Genetic testing to customize drug decisions

Pharmacists partner in project to develop 'personalized medicine' (with video)

Corey Nislow.



Four Metro Vancouver pharmacies are part of a research project that aims to eventually offer personalized medicine to patients who undergo genetic testing.

UBC researchers are partnering with community pharmacists to collect DNA from saliva samples to test how an indvidual’s genetic makeup can alter decisions on medication choice and dosage to make their use more effective.

The B.C. Pharmacy Association says its $400,000 18-month project with Genome BC, dubbed Genomics for Precision Drug Therapy in the Community Pharmacy, should bring the promise of personalized medicine a major step closer by sequencing each patient’s genome.

Genetic testing is often discussed as a way to assess disease risk, but the field of pharmacogenomics seeks to determine how a person’s genes influence their response to certain medications.

Corey Nislow“We’re focusing on the mechanics of getting the genome from a pharmacy, bringing it into the lab, and decoding it with a high enough accuracy and in a fast enough time frame that you could actually benefit from that information,” said Corey Nislow, professor in the department of pharmaceutical sciences at UBC.

He said the technology holds promise to soon start actually “personalizing medicine” for patients in B.C.

“We have to start bending the cost curve in health care, and one way to do that is to stop giving people drugs that can’t benefit them, and get them on the right dose faster.”

A total of 200 volunteers currently taking the drug warfarin are to be recruited at 22 B.C. pharmacies, including two in Vancouver and one each in Surrey, Burnaby and Port Coquitlam. (For a list of B.C. pharmacies involved see http://www.bcpharmacy.ca/genome.)

Once the patients’ DNA is decoded and indexed, researchers expect they will be able to use the data to determine how to custom tailor the use of other drugs.

Patients involved in the project won’t get any information back on their DNA – it’s strictly for research purposes.

– with files from Andrea Peacock, Victoria News