Bioethics Blogs

Your Biology is in My Technology

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

The PBS series Open Mind has been on television for nearly 60 years. The program “is a thoughtful excursion into the world of ideas.” The December 30 episode was an interview with Dr. Maria Freire, President of the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health. The host of this show, Alexander Heffner, asked AJOB and BIOETHICS.NET to share this interview, about which he said, “it’s among our most fascinating conversations.”

The conversation is about exploring is about the intersection of biology and technology, harnessing big data to learn about human health and find cures for human disease. This intersection was recently called by President Barack Obama, “precision medicine” a topic which we have written about in this blog. This is the idea that drugs will be developed that work with certain genomes but not others. Thus, there can be targeted cancer therapies based on what genes a person carries.

Freire states that precision medicine is a chance for patient advocacy where individuals can become involved in medical research and helping choose what avenues are explored. She gives as an example an app by Theranos which keeps track of your blood tests performed by some of its in-pharmacy testing centers. The result is that patients can get a blood test at the pharmacy and see the results on their cell phones. Instead of being controlled by testing companies or physicians, the patient controls the test and results. Another company has a blood glucose monitor that connects to your iphone.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.