WMU News

Pharmacia & Upjohn vice president to speak at WMU

Nov. 5, 1999

KALAMAZOO -- The implications of applying strikingly new genomic technologies to modern day drug development will be the topic of a lecture by a Pharmacia & Upjohn researcher Tuesday, Nov. 16, at Western Michigan University.

Dr. Donald C. Anderson, vice president and chief scientific officer at Pharmacia & Upjohn Inc., will present "A Revolution in Human Medicine in the Pharmacogenomic Era: The Interface of Science, Commercialization and Ethics" at 7:30 p.m. in the Fetzer Center's Kirsch Auditorium. The free public lecture is part of a fall lecture series offered by WMU's Center for the Study of Ethics in Society.

"(Pharmacogenomics) is such a new and exciting area for medicine and biology," says Dr. Shirley Bach, associate director of The Center for the Study of Ethics in Society and professor emerita of philosophy. "The topic might be controversial in that it involves genetic testing but it is both exciting in terms of new drugs which could be highly specific to certain individuals and it involves ethical issues."

Pharmacogenomics is the application of novel genomic technologies to the investigation of drugs, which are either in clinical development or currently being marketed. In a "pharmacogenomic life cycle," a drug would be discovered and developed based on the genetic knowledge of the segment of population in which it is most safe and effective.

During clinical development of pharmacogenomics, a stratified "correct" subset of patients identified by genetic testing will be enrolled with the expectation of more definitive and successful trials. Regulatory agencies would then approve the drug for a defined subpopulation and require specific labeling for a corresponding diagnostic test.

Current safety and efficacy profiles of drugs under development are generally targeted toward a uniform population despite the increased awareness of genetic diversity. Clinicians are often required to try multiple therapies to identify an effective or safe drug for a single disease or patient.

This present approach accounts for more than $100 billion annually in increased hospitalization, lost productivity and/or premature death. Evidence in the health care industry suggests that pharmacogenomics is a means to improved health care and reduction in overall costs of its delivery.

"Pharmacogenomics is a potentially very helpful area of research," Bach says. "It will be a most interesting talk for the public and students."

Although having the potential to contribute positively to drug research, Bach says pharmacogenomics has raised serious debates pertaining to privacy and confidentiality issues. Those issues are being discussed by ethical boards across the nation.

Anderson's talk will address those issues as well as the interaction between a new drug development paradigm and the needs of a mass market.

As chief scientific officer of Pharmacia & Upjohn, Anderson is responsible for identifying, implementing and promoting innovative technologies and concepts. Prior to assuming his current position, he was a professor of pediatrics, cell biology, microbiology and immunology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

Anderson's talk is co-sponsored by the Kalamazoo Academy of Medicine.

For more information about Anderson's lecture, contact The Center for the Study of Ethics in Society at (616) 387-4397.

Media contact: Pauline Oo, 616 387-8400, pauline.oo@wmich.edu

Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
616 387-8400