Jeremy Hirota, a St. Joseph’s Healthcare-Hamilton researcher, has been awarded a New Investigator Research Grant to help create a precision medicine tool for patients with cystic fibrosis (CF). The grant is sponsored by the SickKids Foundation and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
Hirota, a respiratory researcher at St. Joseph’s and an assistant professor in the department of medicine at McMaster University in Canada, will receive $280,183 over three years under the grant.
“Unfortunately, currently approved drugs fail to work in all cystic fibrosis patients,” Hirota said in a St. Joseph’s news story. “Creating new tools and treatment options for this disease will save lives and improve the quality of life for patients with cystic fibrosis.”
Hirota wants to combine precision medicine with a technology called “microfluidics,” which refers to the study of small volumes of liquids.
The tool constructed using a microfluidic technology could analyze therapy combinations that would work best for a given patient using small amounts of tissue or other samples taken from that person, and likely produce results faster than existing methods.
“We believe that our tool can reduce hospitalizations for cystic fibrosis patients,” Hirota said. “Depending on our experiments, this could lead to the development of other microfluidic devices for precision medicine to be used for other lung diseases — such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.”
Precision medicine is an emerging approach for disease treatment and prevention that takes into account individual genetic variations, environmental influences, and lifestyle choices.
Precision medicine tools evaluate and compare different combinations of drugs, and allow researchers and physicians to better predict which treatment strategies a patient, based on his or her profile, would benefit from the most.
This individual approach contrasts with a one-size-fits-all approach, in which treatment and prevention mostly rely on the average patient’s profile, with less consideration for the differences among individuals.
It is thought it might help overcome problems associated with the lack of diversity in clinical trials, from which patients can be excluded for not fitting the “average” profile or the trial’s specific design.
Precision medicine is still relatively limited today, but researchers have seen an expansion into many areas of healthcare in recent years, and estimates point to an increase in use of precision medicine tools in coming years.
St. Joseph’s Healthcare-Hamilton is an academic and research institution based in Hamilton, Ontario.