The first IPMCC (International Precision Medicine Center Conference) was held on the 19th of January at the Westin Chosun Hotel, Seoul to discuss global insights of state-of-the-art precision medicine and medical technology research, development, clinical application and digital health. Its theme was called- Beyond Precision Medicine: From Womb to Heaven.
It was also announced that IPMC would build the world’s most positively integrated precision medicine centers in the important city of Paju, the city 26km north from Seoul.
I arrived at the Westin Chosun Hotel promptly at 9:30am on a crispy winter day. Tucking my press badge into my jacket, I stepped into the hotel’s grand ballroom and was blown away by the sheer size of this conference. At least 100 tables were spread across the large room, all occupied with politicians, esteemed professors and scientists, important businessmen and reporters with their professional cameras to record every step. A TV screen, as immense as a cinema monitor, loomed over everyone with the conference’s theme colors of blue and green splashed upon it.
Dr. John Hariri, one of the co-founders of IPMC alongside Deputy Mayor Jun-tae Kim, spoke highly about the relationship between United States and South Korea that collaborated together for the sake of Science in their opening ceremony.
Dr. John Hariri was one of the chief key speakers alongside Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach, who was the Commissioner of the United States Food and Drug Administration from 2006–2009 and John Sculley, vice-president and president of Pepsi-Cola (1970–1983), until he became chief executive officer of Apple Inc until 1993.
The first person to kick off the conference was Dr. John Hariri who discussed his area of expertise which is cellular and regenerative therapy.
"For the last 150 years, medicine has made advancement on germs and diseases that increased the life expectancy by vaccination to the first genetically modified cells. The world of medicine has moved on. We can now create highly specific approaches based upon individual’s genetics and environment which will change death and its condition.” He stated.
Technology in the 21st century can easily deliver information from web based applications that is transforming physicians practice medicine. Not so long ago, doctors had to use their memory and dusty books to gather information but Dr. Hariri, like millions of people world-wide, can now achieve this within seconds using his phone to know unlimited knowledge.
But patients can respond differently to the same medicine. The harsh truth is that 50% of the drugs in American medicine do not work. They do not have a fundamental biological basis to work in the patients to whom they are prescribing to. As many as 3/4 of all cancer drugs don’t have a legitimate important biological effect to patients but they are prescribed because that’s the best thing we can have today.
“But pharmacogenomics, (the study of how genes affect a person's response to drugs) will improve dramatically our ability to match the therapy to the patient, and the patient at their stage of condition.” Dr. Hariri said. “The sequencing of the human genome, the improved technologies for biomedical analysis and new tools for using larger databases can help us learn how to satisfy individuals need.”
A break was ensued and half-a-dozen guests from the prestigious Ewha Women’s University glided into view, dressed in hanbok, to perform the gayageum- a traditional Korean zither-like 12 string instrument. Coffee and tea flowed through people’s cups while they watched or eagerly asked questions to the speakers.
The second key speaker, Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach, made his way up the stage and introduced himself. He is currently serving the Board of Directors of BioTime, a biotechnology company and is considered an expert in the field of cancer as he was selected to be the 12th National Cancer Institute (NCI) Director by President George W. Bush.
“We are in the midst of the most profound transformation to ever occur in the entire history of medicine.” He declared. “100 years ago the quest of science and technology at that time would understand the fundamental rule of energy and matter. But along the way, mid-part of the 20th century, because we were facing with diseases, science and technology began shifting to understanding the way of life by acknowledging cells.”
And now the 21th century trends are the discovery of DNA and material science and computers. Up until this moment, the paradigm of medicine has been based on observation of manifestation of disease but now scientists can understand the mechanism of disease which is the transformation of precision medicine.
“Cancer is the most egregious disorder of the normal life processes of growth and differentiation. We are recognizing life science is now becoming the life driver of the 21st century. We can detect and destroy diseases but now we have to prevent them at step 1. We need the right treatment to the right patients with the right medicine. Everything is changing but the megatrend in the 21st century is Stem cell Biology; Biology as a digital science and the intersection of physical and Life science.” Dr. Eschenbach said.
The biomedical model of precision medicine requires 4 essential components:
Target- a gene, receptor, pathway, organelle
Payload: a small molecule, antibody, vaccine and physical energy like ultrasound
Delivery: a nanoparticle, ligand, excipient
Monitoring; arrays, imaging, biosensors
All these components come together into a computer and can be connected together with data.
“Medicine can be a digital world with access to information, data measurement of performance and value creation. We understand technology that cures AND restore health with regenerative medicine.” Dr. Eschenbach added before finishing his speech.
John Sculley, who is the third key speaker at this conference, is an iconic figure in the department of marketing through his inspiring golden years at Pepsi-Cola and Apple Inc. His speech clarifies on how to build a Supernova Health-tech company and ways to become successful in your work.
“You need an innovation that is so important that the world is never gonna be the same again.” Sculley stated. “That is the motto of a Supernova company.”
He uses innovation examples such as Google that found a way to gain information in the web and that changed the world for the better. In the old days where Sculley sat down with Steve Jobs and Bill Gates in private meetings, they talked about “noble cause” which means to power individuals with the tool of their mind. And this word has stuck to John Sculley’s mind ever since.
Apple’s noble cause was to empower non-technical people with technology tools for the mind. Facebook’s was to connect every person to every other person while Google was to enable every person to navigate the world’s knowledge.
“Why is this important for the world? We need to talk about the values. Ten most powerful corporations in the world today is from America Silicon Valley. They always started with identifying a really big customer problem. Afterwards they discover a better way to solve this problem: the curiosity and passion for the noble cause to observe and learn. To change the world, you got to do it on a massive scale. Create a land grab plan where the winner takes all.” Sculley pointed out.
The big customer problem for example, can be passengers in big cities that hated taxi experience and now there is Uber from 2009. It is now valued at 68 billion dollars. But the result is the taxi industry in big cities got a lot better because of this competition. Taxis have more space and it’s the same costs as Uber.
John Sculley’s current noble cause is to improve healthcare in America. Out of 3 trillion dollars that is used for healthcare, 150 billion dollars is unnecessary admin expense while 350 billion dollars is waste, abuse and fraud.
“There is no way to replace Obamacare with a sustainable health insurance plan without first transforming how healthcare is delivered to chronically ill patients. The highest priorities of the US health system are to move the chronic patients from the hospital beds to their own homes. Patients are customers too.”
With the conference drawing to a close, all key speakers were ushered into the stage together to link hands for the cameras; symbolizing their passion about science together despite cultural and social differences. They all beamed and congratulated each other with hugs and handshakes, receiving flowers and a loud applause from the audience. The first IPMCC in Korea to facilitate knowledge exchange, analysis and discussion of the most recent innovations in themes related to biomedical health was a success that everyone was hoping for.
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