Making precision medicine a reality in Switzerland

Guest Blogger|13th September 2019

The global precision medicine market is set to reach $96.6 billion by 2024, according to Global Market Insights. It is regarded as the future of healthcare and is currently being practised at the University of Bern and the Bern University Hospital (Inselspital) in Switzerland.

In January, the university and Insel Gruppe AG, which consists of the Inselspital and the Spital Netz Bern hospitals, founded a new virtual centre for precision medicine. The hub was developed to form a regulatory, technical, clinical, ethical and economic framework to ensure the right patients are able to access the right therapy at the right time. It is tapping into both the minds of the university and university hospital, as well as stakeholders located more remotely, to overcome some of the greatest challenges preventing precision medicine coming to fruition.

What’s your role at the Bern Center for Precision Medicine?

DC: I wear several hats. I’m a director for research at the University of Bern. I’ve taken on the role of project lead for the launch of the centre but, at the same time, I am also one of the stakeholders because I am the Chairman of Surgery and Gastroenterology at the university.

Where did the idea for the centre come from?

DC: The executive board of the university has been thinking strategically about the future and also picking up on existing opportunities. We are the third largest university in Switzerland, we have 18,000 students, and we are research intense. We’ve been looking at what has been going on worldwide in relation to precision medicine and we want to ensure Switzerland is at the forefront of this movement. To foster this, we knew we needed to develop the legal and ethical frameworks surrounding precision medicine.

The Bern Centre for Precision Medicine (BCPM) is not a physical centre, but a coordination platform. We know the issues around precision medicine cannot be solved by our faculty alone. As a result, partnering with the right stakeholders is key, no matter where they are located.

The centre combines technical platforms such as the Inselspital’s liquid biobank with organisational units such as the Department of Biomedical Research. Different fields such as genomics, health economics, data protection and statistics are brought together in one space. The embryonic phase of this project involved people from all kinds of backgrounds. We were keen not to choose stakeholders based on their hierarchical positions, but to identify people at various points in their academic career, because this centre is not a short-term project. It will require a lot of effort.

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