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Thanks to COVID, there is increasing excitement over the use of genomics in clinical care, as evidenced by the large investments that health care organizations are making. But genomics isn’t the only “omics” making waves in precision medicine.   

In general, precision medicine is a catchall for a broad range of services, explains Clay Smith, MD, Director, Blood Disorders and Cell Therapies Center and Medical Director, University of Colorado Health and CU Innovation Centers. At CU Innovation Centers, this includes using AI and other computational tools for imaging, drug discovery, cancer treatments and predictive tests. It also includes the multi-omics, and specifically, proteomics to determine a patient’s risk of cardiovascular and other diseases.  

“We have been using a lot of exciting technology where you can look at single, individual cells and collect data. We call this multi-omics data. You can use computational tools, such as machine learning, to look for novel targets and resistance cells, develop companion diagnostics, and hopefully develop clinical decision support tools so clinicians can get the right drug to the right patient at the right time,” Smith says.  

Usage of multi-omics, particularly as it relates to individualized treatment plans, is a strategy that’s prescribed by Jeff Moses, President of GATC Health, which offers a suite of digital neural networks designed specifically to leverage “omic” datasets to provide insight into human biology. He says the company looks at genomics, along with proteomics, microbomics, transcriptomics and viromics in its AI-powered platforms to discover a more inclusive vision of a person’s health as well as to identify potential interventions and therapeutics for diseases.  

“DNA is a blueprint, it’s not the finished product. There are so many other factors that go into what makes up our [human biology],” says Moses. “Most AI platforms in the genomics space think in linear algorithmic terms. They think in math. While that can be good for some things, it doesn’t give you the full picture.”  

Drug discovery and effectiveness  

The single-cell multi-omics market is valued at $2.45 billion—but with the potential to grow to nearly $14 billion by the end of the decade, according to a report from Allied Market Research. Moreover, researchers are increasingly using single-cell multi-omics to inform the study of tumor progression, including cancer cell diversity and evolution. 

One promising area where the other “omics” can make waves is in drug discovery. Researchers at the University of Sussex have in the past found multi-omics approaches effective in the search for new anti-tuberculosis drugs. GATC has a collaboration with Liquid Biosciences, which has a biomarker discovery platform, where the two companies share data to identify new and existing molecules that can be used in development of drugs and therapeutics.  

Moses says that not only can this information improve the effectiveness and safety of medications, but it can speed up the process in which drugs go to market. Since it was announced in January of this year, the collaboration was able to discover three molecules that can be used to treat heroin addiction in a matter of weeks. “I have been told it takes 7-million-man hours to get a drug to market. Our efforts shaved 1.5 million off that cycle,” Moses says. 

Read more: Can genomics and precision medicine initiatives deliver in the post-COVID world? 

Speaking as a clinician, Smith at UC Health says too much time is used to get people on the right treatments by trial and error. He says that if there could be more direct information on what medications are likely to work for an individual patient, it would be transformational.  

“There are so many extra side effects that people get that they don’t need since they aren’t on the right drugs. There are delays in treatment in getting the right drug. It’s hugely wasteful from a financial standpoint for everyone, especially patients,” Smith says. “[This data can lead to] better outcomes, fewer side effects, less delays in getting to what works, and hopefully much better stewardship of money that goes into paying for all this.” 

COVID and dynamic tests  

The COVID crisis has shown the need for the speed in which vaccines and drugs are developed. The rapid development of COVID vaccines, for example, would not have been possible without the combined proteomics and genomics approach against SARS-CoV-2, says Vijay Kumar, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Pharmacy, The University of Tennessee Health Science Center in a recent NCBI publication 

The processing power to measure proteins has only gotten stronger, according to Roy Smythe, MD, CEO of SomaLogic. For its part, SomaLogic’s proteomics-based platform is currently able to measure 7,000 proteins simultaneously and Smythe said that will increase to 10,000 next year. Moreover, he says that the pandemic has showed how unhealthy the overall population is in the developed world and why precision medicine needs to be more precise.