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Belfast welcomes first Congress on Personalised Medicine

28 Nov 2017

This Monday saw the opening of the first annual Congress held by the European Alliance for Personalised Medicine (EAPM).

The four-day Congress, entitled ‘Personalising Your Health: A Global Imperative’ is being held in the capital of Northern Ireland under the auspices of the Estonian Presidency of the EU and in association with Queen’s University Belfast and Visit Belfast.

This is the first ever pan-European, multidisciplinary Congress specific to the fast-moving field of personalised medicine.

The event at the Belfast Waterfront venue will provide the biggest ‘space’ to date to allow for such a meeting of minds and expertise.

It represents a one-stop-shop for top-level discussion and the formulation of real action plans.

EAPM executive director Denis Horgan opened the inaugural Congress, saying: The Alliance brings together extensive scientific, clinical, caring and training expertise in personalised medicine and diagnostics.

"This involves patient groups, academia, health professionals and industry, while we also engage in ongoing dialogue with the European Commission, Parliament and the EMA.”

"I’m delighted to see that representatives from all of these areas are with us this week,” he added.

Horgan spoke about the ongoing, multi-layered policy goals of the Alliance, saying "A founding and ongoing principle of EAPM was, and is, to bring together all stakeholders allowing us to find consensus where possible and also allowing us to speak in a constructive language that regulators and institutions understand.

"EAPM will continue to do this and, over five years, has achieved many successes through such methodologies, not least through our five annual conferences.

Following the opening, the first presidential session of the Congress was entitled 'Growth in Personalised Medicine - the promise for future generations'. 

Christian Busoi MEP said: “Action is necessary at a cooperative and EU level - in gaining new insights into diseases, personalised medicine is already becoming the dominant therapy for cancer and a host of other afflictions.

“Quality assurance needs to be further developed to respond to patients requirements. And affordability is the most crucial issue - can we ‘afford’ to beat cancer?” 
Concerning the regulation of medicines in the EU, which is an integral part of personalised medicine, Dublin's Health Products Regulatory Authority Chief Executive Lorraine Nolan said: “I think we have a really good reputation in terms of regulations of medicines within the EU. We’re viewed as open and progressive. Tough, but fair.”  

"Much has changed in the regulatory mindset - regulators are working to ensure that they stay abreast of the latest innovations,” she said.   

This was a theme that was expanded on by European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer Director General Denis Lacombe, who was in Belfast from Brussels: "New regulations should therefore be good news. The European Commission has adopted a directive in order to pave the way for a pan-European research area. The principle is fine, the implementation is the problem.” 

Mark Lawler, chairman in Translational Cancer Genomics, Queen's University Belfast said “We must look at how to realise the promise of the patient-centred approach. Better methods of treatment and treatment education need to help the person at the level of the person.”

Desmond Schatz MD, of the UF Diabetes Institute said “There is a sense of urgency and a call for action on diabetes - understanding the disease is key to personalised medicine treating it.  
“Diabetes is the epidemic of the 21st century - at present, there are 415 million sufferers, with 620m projected by 2040. Treatment requirements are not being met by current methods.”
And Peter Meeus, who is head of Region Europe, Shire, London concluded on diabetes: "With 415 million people living with the condition globally, and costing health-care systems about $465bn annually, it's no surprise that much of the health-care world has its eyes on diabetes and the damaging effect it can have both economically and to the individuals who live with it.”

Tonight will see two winners pick up special awards at a welcome reception in Belfast City Hall.

The EAPM SMART Award (Smaller Member states And Regions Together) and the Patient-centric Innovator Award.

ecancer Editor and EAPM co-chair Gordon McVie will oversee the presentations and explained beforehand that Europe’s health policies need to recognise and tackle the inherent health system vulnerabilities faced, specifically, by smaller countries and in the regions of the larger ones.

The first award will recognise this.

McVie went on to say that the patient-centric innovator award exists to highlight the role of a company which has made putting patients at the centre of their own healthcare a key element during the course of its own, ongoing innovative work.  

At the welcome reception, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Chloe Smith MP, will also address the gathering of delegates and Congress speakers.

Source: EAPM

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