Dr. Braun, before becoming Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, you worked as a physician. With such a background, how would you define individualized medicine?
Braun: Individualized medicine is one of the most significant options of modern medical practice and one of the central challenges for health research. The idea is to achieve the highest possible therapeutic efficacy while simultaneously reducing side effects. For me personally, individualized medicine signifies a radical change in the way we think. In the past, the goal was to develop medications and treatments that were effective for the most patients and symptoms possible. But this principle was often carried out at the cost of effectiveness. With individualized medicine, we're now able to take the next big step towards specifically tailored medical treatment. In the future, we'll be able to develop new therapies that are useful to a smaller group of patients, but that in turn are all the more effective and result in fewer side effects. And more than ever, diagnostics and treatments will go hand in hand.
What opportunities do you see arising from the individualization of medicine?
Braun: The tremendous developments made over the last two decades in molecular biology on the one side and bioinformatics on the other hold huge potential. This has to do with targeted prevention, early recognition, and treatment of diseases. Individualized medicine opens up the possibility to make diagnostics more precise and therapies more effective. It creates the opportunity to help patients by developing new, innovative, and custom therapeutic procedures and products and an innovative and comprehensive health care concept .
Do you have any concerns?
Braun: There are a few research questions that still need to be discussed: how can we use this new knowledge responsibly in the future? Should individuals have the right "not to know"? And to what extent does this affect our individuality or even our self-determination? These questions require a dialogue with the general public where everyone - from patients to researchers to businesses - can be heard. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research will be active in advancing and supporting this discussion.
How significant is individualized medicine in the research funding provided by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research?
Braun: The enormous potential of increasingly individualized medicine and the corresponding opportunities for Germany's health care industry are both reasons that individualized medicine is an independent field of activity in the Federal Government's current framework programme for health research. In the future, there will be more attractive promotional and funding tools to encourage collaboration among all players along the entire value chain. Our goal is to promote innovation and accelerate translation so that individualized diagnostic and therapeutic procedures can be implemented quickly and efficiently. Additionally, we want to deal with the implications of individualized medicine which might not fall directly in the field of medical research, but rather which have to do with socio-political or legal conditions. There are ethical and legal issues to be discussed, including the doctor-patient relationship, the handling of large amounts of data, the training of medical professionals, not to mention issues of approval and reimbursement. In these areas, we will be working closely with all involved parties to initiate and moderate discussions.
In your opinion, what role does PerMediCon play?
Braun: With the motto "Create the Future of Health," PerMediCon is taking on one of the greatest social challenges. Particularly within the context of demographic change, we need a new quality of health care. Individualized medicine promises solutions, but will also need great to ensure success: it requires interdisciplinary cooperation, networking and dialogue. Only when research, industry and regulators all pull in the same direction can we reach these lofty goals. PerMediCon offers players within the field of individualized medicine precisely such a platform, and as such, it could be the starting point for productive cooperation.
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