Systems Biology and P4 Medicine: Past, Present, and Future
Studying complex biological systems in a holistic rather than a “one gene or one protein” at a time approach requires the concerted effort of scientists from a wide variety of disciplines. The Institute for Systems Biology (ISB) has seamlessly integrated these disparate fields to create a cross-disciplinary platform and culture in which “biology drives technology drives computation.” To achieve this platform/culture, it has been necessary for cross-disciplinary ISB scientists to learn one another’s languages and work together effectively in teams. The focus of this “systems” approach on disease has led to a discipline denoted systems medicine. The advent of technological breakthroughs in the fields of genomics, proteomics, and, indeed, the other “omics” is catalyzing striking advances in systems medicine that have and are transforming diagnostic and therapeutic strategies. Systems medicine has united genomics and genetics through family genomics to more readily identify disease genes. It has made blood a window into health and disease. It is leading to the stratification of diseases (division into discrete subtypes) for proper impedance match against drugs and the stratification of patients into subgroups that respond to environmental challenges in a similar manner (e.g. response to drugs, response to toxins, etc.). The convergence of patient-activated social networks, big data and their analytics, and systems medicine has led to a P4 medicine that is predictive, preventive, personalized, and participatory. Medicine will focus on each individual. It will become proactive in nature. It will increasingly focus on wellness rather than disease. For example, in 10 years each patient will be surrounded by a virtual cloud of billions of data points, and we will have the tools to reduce this enormous data dimensionality into simple hypotheses about how to optimize wellness and avoid disease for each individual. P4 medicine will be able to detect and treat perturbations in healthy individuals long before disease symptoms appear, thus optimizing the wellness of individuals and avoiding disease. P4 medicine will 1) improve health care, 2) reduce the cost of health care, and 3) stimulate innovation and new company creation. Health care is not the only subject that can benefit from such integrative, cross-disciplinary, and systems-driven platforms and cultures. Many other challenges plaguing our planet, such as energy, environment, nutrition, and agriculture can be transformed by using such an integrated and systems-driven approach.
Rambam Maimonides Med J 2013;4(2):e0012