Next Decade: Probing Medical Research

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Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, offers his thoughts on the future of medical research in the new decade.


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Ari Shapiro in for Scott Simon. Happy New Year.

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SHAPIRO: As the new decade begins, we're asking experts in different fields to gaze into a crystal ball. Here's Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. FRANCIS COLLINS (Director, National Institutes of Health): In the next decade, I think we will see the implementation of personalized medicine. The opportunity for each of us to have much more detailed information about our own risks of future illness and what we can do about it, by changing lifestyle, diet, exercise and so on.

A lot of that will come from knowledge of our own DNA because within the next decade, many of us will have our complete genome decoded for less than a $1,000 and that information will be part of our medical record, guiding our own decision making about prevention and guiding our doctors when we need help for some illness as that has hit us to get the right drug at the right dose at the right time.

For someone who develops a cancer at the end of the next decade, I think it's likely that tumor will be very much analyzed in detail to see exactly what are the glitches that have caused those good cells to go bad. And that will enable a very precise and rational choice of what therapeutics will need to be used for that person which might be different than somebody else who has a cancer that otherwise looks very similar.

This ability to match precise information about molecular biology of a cancer with the available therapeutics, so that you get the best outcome is coming along in research now, but in the next decade this will become part of the standard of care. And hurray for that because this is going to give us a much better chance to cure people of this disease than we have right now.

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I am upbeat. As the director of the National Institutes of Health I've the chance to oversee this amazing organization that's supporting biomedical research in our country and I can see the scientific opportunities are almost limitless. This is going to be a great decade for medical research and for its consequences for public health.

SHAPIRO: That's Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health. He has a new book coming up this week called �The language of Life: DNA and the Revolution in Personalized Medicine.�

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