Pharmaceutical Industry Network Group Conference charts the rise of personalised medicine, genomics, and AI

The Pharmaceutical Industry Network Group (PING) 2020 Conference was held online on 26 November 2020. Bringing together experts from industry, academia, and medicine, the PING 2020 Conference discussed the latest advances in personalised medicine, genomics, and artificial intelligence (AI). The highlights below indicate the position of the UK as a world leader in personalised medicine, and demonstrate the bright future of these technologies in targeted treatment.

The keynote speech, delivered by Parker Moss, Chief Commercial and Partnership Officer at Genomics England Limited (GEL), explained the work that GEL has undertaken alongside the NHS in preparation for the launch of the Genomic Medicine Service. The aim of this world-leading service is to make whole-genome sequencing the standard of care for a selection of cancers and rare diseases. GEL has aided the launch by providing cutting-edge research tools, a new cloud-based platform for more powerful genomic analysis, and support for clinical studies and trials.

Dr Joanne Hackett, Chair at Pexxi and formerly Chief Commercial Officer at GEL, stated that the UK is at the forefront of advances in diagnostic and preventive technologies. In future, greater collaborative working and improved linkage of genomic and clinical data will cement the UK’s position as a leader in personalised medicine and genomics.

Matthew Durdy, Chief Executive of the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult, detailed the successes of the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult in the development and commercialisation of advanced therapies, explaining that progress in this field will take place in phases: ‘Firstly, the precisely guided use of medicines, especially high value advanced therapeutics; and then the convergence of increased data and information, genetics and proteomics, and advanced therapeutics to create highly targeted and personalised treatments.’

Dr Nick Lench, Co-Founder and CSO of Congenica, discussed the expansion of newborn screening to whole-genome screening for the early identification of serious rare genetic disorders. Such diagnostic advances will enable early initiation of treatment for 1 in 200 newborns, which has the potential to reduce disease burden and treatment costs later in life.

Professor Jackie Hunter CBE of Benevolent AI reported on the AI revolution in drug discovery, explaining how Benevolent AI’s information technology tools had empowered scientists seeking new therapies.

Yogesh Davé, Director of Cypress Quality Consultancy, explained the potential of algorithm-based medicine to improve patient’s lives, citing the example of CAR-T cell therapies as an effective and targeted way to fight some haemophilic cancers.

The event was chaired by Paul Gershlick, VWV PING Chair and Partner and Head of Pharmaceuticals and Life Sciences, who concluded: ‘We are delighted to have held our first-ever virtual PING Conference with such a stellar line-up of speakers on these key areas. The future of life sciences is promising—it is all about innovation, individuality and collaboration. The UK is the vanguard within the pharma industry in these exciting areas, taking it to new heights to improve people’s overall health’.