New insights into the molecular processes of life are broadening our understanding of health and disease. The aim of individualized medicine is to make such knowledge useful for individually tailored prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
Every person is unique. This applies to both their personality and their health. Genetic make-up, lifestyle, gender and age are some of the many individual factors which influence our health and the course of potential diseases. Successful health research reflects these individual aspects and the needs of each and every person. In this way it can lay the foundations for successful health promotion and medical treatment. For example, precisely tailored individual treatment for a certain form of liver infection, hepatitis C, is already standard medical practice. Individual treatments are available to patients. This is possible because molecular biological research has discovered the place in the human genetic code which points the way to an optimal treatment of patients.
The Federal Ministry of Education and Research supports this relatively new branch of medicine on various levels. All six German Centres for Health Research take account of individualized medicine in their respective research fields. It is their goal that new research findings can be translated quickly into customized treatments.
The Ministry also supports a wide range of projects on individualized medicine ranging from basic research to applied and clinical research. In its Action Plan for Individualized Medicine, the Ministry pools initiatives that open new perspectives both for the treatment of patients and for innovations in the health industry.
The primary aim is for patients to benefit more quickly from medical therap
ies and products. To that end, the respective expertise of science, hospitals and industry is to be brought together in new partnerships in the areas of diagnosis and treatment. New methods and tools are being developed to advance research on individualized medicine. Individualized medicine raises fundamental questions of ethics, law and economics. The Ministry funds relevant accompanying research and information and discussion platforms to tackle these questions.
Many new processes and standards are necessary to take advantage of the opportunities offered by individualized medicine. International agreement is particularly important, which is why research projects do not stop at national borders. This is the reason that the Ministry is participating in the Europe-wide project “Personalised Medicine 2020 and Beyond”. The project brings together 27 partners from 14 countries. Joint recommendations have been drawn up for research, medical care, and also the health care providers, under the lead responsibility of the Federal Research Ministry.