There are many health disparities between countries, ranging from burden of disease to healthcare spending. Expanding insurance coverage and healthcare infrastructure as well as improving distribution of medicines and health services can help address these disparities. Science and medicine also play an important role in helping people lead healthier lives.
We are entering a new era of personalized medicine: diseases may soon be characterized by their molecular fingerprints, and we expect that new diagnostic and therapeutic strategies will shift the focus of healthcare increasingly from intervention to prevention.
Impact of diversity on predisposition to disease
People have very different predispositions to disease, based on their genetic background, geography or environment. Because genomic profiles are so different among the world's populations, it is essential to understand the impact of diversity on predisposition to disease, design of diagnostics and responses to new drugs.
Genomic medicine (or medicine based on a person's genomic profile) is becoming a priority in emerging and developing countries, driven by its potential to lead to better healthcare and foster economic development.
For example, during the past decade, Mexico has established a platform for genomic medicine in parallel with a sweeping healthcare reform that expanded insurance coverage to 50 million people, roughly half the country's population. The government expects encouraging genomic medicine within the country will stimulate research on local health problems. Mexican scientists are conducting sophisticated studies to probe genomic variation associated with a range of disorders, including gastric cancer, a type of tumor more common in Mexico than most other countries.
The African Institute for Biomedical Science and Technology - a pan-African biomedical initiative that aims to promote the sciences and technologies of drug discovery and development on the continent based in Harare, Zimbabwe - focuses on pharmacogenomics, the study of the impact of genetics on individual responses to drugs. One of the institute's studies found that a genetic variant found only in people of African origin to date has a major impact on dosage of a drug used widely to treat patients coinfected with AIDS and tuberculosis.
At the research center in Shanghai, China, NIBR scientists are focusing on liver cancer, while building broad expertise about other forms of liver disease prevalent in Asia. The NIBR center in Shanghai has recruited many scientists who trained in Europe or the United States and then returned home to China.
By establishing scientific and clinical capability in emerging and developing countries, Novartis aims to step up development of medicines against diseases prevalent in these regions.