China bets big on precision medicine, leading the world

Credit: The China-U.S. Precision Medicine Summit
Credit: The China-U.S. Precision Medicine Summit

Precision medicine — using genetic information to determine treatments — enables healthcare to move away from a one-size-fits-all approach where patients are treated with the same therapy, to one where targeted treatments are based on a patient’s DNA and biomarkers.

The Chinese government and private sector are leading the charge globally, encouraging nationwide collection of DNA samples and investing in data analysis tools.

The Beijing Genome Institute, the world’s largest sequencer and repository of genetic material, says it is capable of decoding the entire genomes of 100,000 people a year for no more than US$100 per person.

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Currently, China does not have specific legislation in place to protect personal data, including genetic data, at the national level. However, regulations are being developed. The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China has outlined a legislative agenda for a data protection law that is set to be enacted next year.

Overcoming data privacy concerns will be key to unleashing the full benefits of genetic testing. Structural efforts should be made to overcome these issues, such as transparency over how such powerful personal data is used. Close collaboration is needed between genetic testing companies, doctors, patient rights advocates, regulatory agencies and insurers.

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