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5 posts from January 2012


Personalized Medicine and Healthcare Delivery

PGx illustrationIn exchange for a few drops of blood or saliva, patients are now able to obtain information based upon variations in their DNA sequences that will one day help them benefit from the prescribing of more effective tailored drugs and avoid some of the more serious side effects.

"That is the tantalizing promise of personalized medicine," says Dr. Amalia M Issa, the Director of the Program in Personalized Medicine and Targeted Therapeutics, and Professor and Chair of the Department of Health Policy and Public Health.

What is Personalized Medicine? One Size Does Not Fit All
Medications that help one patient are often ineffective or even harmful for another person. Emerging technologies are making it possible to tailor treatments to improve health outcomes. Delivering personalized medicine involves integrating genetic data with clinical data and family histories in order to more coherently customize therapeutics to patients.

Personalized Medicine Today
Personalized medicine is being applied in cancer treatments, and also increasingly for cardiovascular, neurological and psychiatric disorders to name a few areas.

The increasing integration of personalized medicine applications into clinical practice and health systems raises important questions about how personalized medicine can best help patients without increasing costs and improve health outcomes.

Leading the Way
With such rapid developments, it is important to understand how we can develop effective strategies for introducing these new technologies into real-world health care delivery settings.

Dr. Issa, an internationally recognized expert in the field of personalized medicine, and her team at the Program in Personalized and Targeted Therapeutics are conducting research aimed at understanding how personalized medicine applications will be translated from bench to bedside to community and integrated effectively into clinical practice and health care delivery.

“The key question that drives our research,” says Dr. Issa, “is what is needed for personalized medicine to be well-integrated into clinical practice and effectively incorporated into health care delivery and health systems?”

In weeks to come, Dr. Issa and her team will be sharing developments from the world of personalized medicine.

Save the Date:  Making the Connections: Personalized Medicine - From Promise to Policy and Public Health

Tuesday, April 17, 2012, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at University of the Sciences 

Join us as a panel of renowned speakers provides an engaging update of the field of personalized medicine and explores the field from public health and health policy perspectives as well as business and economic aspects. 


Travel Guide to Ben Franklin Sites in Philadelphia

In honor of Ben Franklin's 306th birthday, I have put together a travel guide piece about all things Franklin in Philadelphia. 

The Franklin Institute and Other Sites in Philadelphia Related to Benjamin Franklin


Studying Science in Philadelphia – Part 2

The formal part of an education in the science typically takes place at a college or university.  Philadelphia provides many other opportunities to learn science.  A good education in science extends beyond the classroom. 

In the fall the Philadelphia Beekeepers Guild has their Honey Fest.  In 2011 there were Fest events at Wagner Free Institute of Science, Wyck House, and Bartram Gardens.  Last year was also the first year of the Philadelphia Science Festival.  There were a variety of events, some formal, some entertaining, at locations around the city.  You can see highlights from 2011 and follow what is planned for 2012 at


I should be writing more about 2012 events in future posts to this blog. 

 Opportunities to learn science can occur in some unexpected places.  Earth Bread and Brewery in the Mt. Airy section of the city is host to Table Top Science one evening each month.  USciences students fill the evening with entertaining and informative chemistry related activities.  The next show is planned for Tuesday, January 24, 2012.  More information about the venue is available at the website and on Facebook.



Studying Science in Philadelphia – Part 1

Large cities have many benefits.  In Philadelphia we have a newspaper that still has a science writer, Faye Flam, with a very interesting column.  If you do not have a subscription to the Inquirer the column also appears on her blog at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/evolution/

The Wednesday, January 4, 2012 blog post analyzed an article by Charles Krauthammer titled “Are We Alone in the Universe”.  I will take this opportunity to add my own analysis.  Although the topic is outside my area of expertise I can make use of my knowledge of basic science to make some comments.

In reflecting on why we have not heard from other planets Krauthammer considers the dangers of the technology a civilization generates and comments on the importance of politics in our survival. Flam sees this later point as a possible “dig at science”.   Possibly Krauthammer is trying to give politicians a pat on the back in this wearying primary season.  I recommend Jared Diamond’s book “Guns Germs and Steel” for its important perspective on the role of the natural world in political and economic dominance. 

In the post a scenario is proposed, Flam writes:

“It’s also possible that we earthlings are among the first technological civilizations in the galaxy.   It took a generation or two of star formation to create all the carbon and other heavy elements. We don’t know how likely it is for intelligent, technological life to emerge, and we don’t know whether 4.5 billion years is relatively fast or slow.”

I will consider two other scenarios, neither is any more valid but in science we do consider alternate analyses of problems.

 First, as a possibly humorous analysis, maybe we are one of the last civilizations to develop technology.  All the more advanced civilizations may have grown tired of space spam and our messages are being quarantined in some extraterrestrial trash bin.

Some points that might be more significant can be made by considering a second scenario in which development on different planets occurs at a very similar pace.  In this case we need to realize that the distance between the planets will play an important role in communication.

If my numbers are correct the recently discovered planet Kepler 22b is about 620 light years away.  Any information we might receive today from possible inhabitants of that planet would be from about 1392 CE - most certainly old news.  If we send a message today it will get to them until about 2632 CE – again most certainly old news when it is received.  The point is that our ability to communicate over long distances is recent enough that our messages may not have reached other worlds and unless some other beings have been broadcasting for quite some time we have not had the opportunity to receive their messages.

For movie fans, I found the old broadcasting signals being bounced back to earth an interesting aspect of the plot development in the 1997 movie “Contact”.

Both the article and the blog post refer to recent developments in science.  Because science is a discipline that is continuously progressing, recent does not mean complete.  It is the incomplete parts that give us much to think about.


Op-Ed: Helping L.A.'s foster kids grow up

Dr. Stephen Metraux, a USciences Associate Professor of Health Policy, and colleagues had an op-ed published in the LA Times today based on the research they are doing in LA - Helping L.A.'s foster kids grow up: A new California law will allow young people to receive support until the age of 21, rather than forcing them to fend for themselves at 18.

"If successful, programs that provide additional supports to foster youth are likely to generate substantial economic benefits, both for the young people and for the public purse. Having more foster youth excelling in the college classroom, on the job and in their own homes means that fewer will be filling jail cells, hospital beds and shelters. This will free up much-needed public resources for other uses."

Read the Op Ed here: http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-culhane-fosterkids-20120102,0,7238921.story

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