A high-level meeting on personalised medicine took place in Bologna, Italy, on Monday 26 September.
Hosted by the Brussels-based European Alliance for Personalised Medicine (EAPM) the event, “Making Access to Personalised Medicine a Reality for Patients” in the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region formed part of the Alliance’s SMART Outreach programme.
SMART stands for Smaller Member states And Regions Together and is one of a series that has seen the umbrella organisation take to the road to EU countries such as Spain, Poland, Ireland and Romanian plus several more.
Bologna has been an urban centre of the country since at least 1000 BC, with settlements coming under the rule, variously, of the Etruscans, Celts and Romans.
It is home to the University of Bologna, which was founded in 1088 and is the oldest university in the world.
The full-day event featured a meeting of the recently founded Italian Alliance for Personalised Medicine (IAPM) – it was launched in Milan earlier this year – to present an overview of activities and goals.
In concert with EAPM’s ‘Taking Stock’ theme at the 2016 annual conference held in April, the IAPM seeks to take stock of where stakeholders should go next relating to the implementation of the Council conclusions on personalised medicine that were supported by all health ministers during the Luxembourg Presidency of the EU.
Topics at this key event included the EU approach to developing personalised medicine, the primary tasks and responsibilities in the European approach to healthcare, and how such approaches can be improved.
Each session comprised panel discussions as well as Q&A sessions to allow the best-possible
involvement of all participants.
Speakers at this high-profile event included Giovanni Martinelli, MD, Hematology Professor, Institute of Hematology, Gabriella Pravettoni, University of Milan, Giuseppe Paruolo, Councellor of Emilia-Romagna Region and Atonino Rotolo, Vice Rector for Research, Bologna University.
Also addressing the attendees were Laura Valli, Conseillère – Santé publique et Produits pharmaceutiques, Luxembourg Ministry of Health, Charlotte Videbaek, Innovation to Market, Per Med Europe, Diego Liberati, Research Director for Information, Control and Biomedical Engineering, Milan, and Denis Horgan, EAPM’s executive director.
They were joined by Francesco De Lorenzo, ECPC President and Sergio Venturi, Regional Assessor for health policies and Andrea Musillin Head of Government Affairs at Astrazeneca Italy.
The final speakers were Giovanni Codacci Pisanelli, Assistant Professor of Medical Oncology, Rome University and Elio Rossi, Tuscan Network of Integrative Medicine.
Francesco De Lorenzo said: “Personalised medicine is all about the patient, and it is important that their rights and opinions are respected when it comes to their own treatments, whether in Italy or anywhere else. Patients these days demand to be given all the necessary information and this, while improving, needs to get better down the line.”
De Lorenzo was backed up by Gabirlella Pravettoni who said: “In the 21st century, in which patients have more understanding of their conditions than ever before, it is vital that healthcare professionals are well-trained in new methods and have the ability to communicate effectively with patients and their families.”
And Giovanni Martinelly said: “The importance of research in personalised medicine cannot be over-estimated. Among other things, researchers and companies need the right incentives and access to vital data in order to significantly help bring the right treatment to the right patient at the right time.”
Andrea Musilli, Government Affair at AstraZeneca added that “it is increasingly committed in the development of “personalised” medicines and this not only applies to target therapies in oncology, but is also becoming important in other areas such as respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. It is therefore fundamental to bring together the institutions, resources and expertise we have here in Italy to help deliver personalised medicine faster to patients”.
Meanwhile, speaking about the event the Alliance’s Denis Horgan said: “EAPM is very supportive of such activities nationally, and this builds on all the work that we have done at the EU level.”
“Italy is a large country and it is important that we take into account the needs of individual regions as well as the nation as a whole.”
He added: “So, as well as working with the EU centrally from our Brussels base, we’ve recently been taking the message of the exciting potential of personalised medicine to individual Member States and their distinct regions. It’s what SMART Outreach is all about.
“Not only that, but we also took the same messages to the UN General Assembly in New York on Friday (23 September) as part of our drive to get personalised medicine recognised globally.”
In the relatively short time since it was formed, EAPM has been in the vanguard of raising the profile and explaining the possibilities of personalised medicine in Europe. This is not only among MEPs and European Commission officials, but also among stakeholders across the health arena as well as the general public.
In recent years this has created an observable institutional shift in policy due to the issues that the Alliance has put forward through its multi-stakeholder membership and bottom-up policy making.
EAPM is firmly of the belief that the integration of personalised medicine, based largely on the use and application of the genetic sciences, offers the best chance of giving the right treatment to the right patient at the right time.