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Myths and Realities of Personalised Medicine: The Genetic Revolution

University of New South Wales via Coursera

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Personalised medicine.  Precision medicine. Individualised medicine. Customised medicine. Targeted medicine. Even bespoke medicine!  All buzzwords of recent years that equally excite, confuse and infuriate the public, researchers and healthcare professionals. What does it all mean, and why should you care?

Broadly speaking, these terms all refer to the idea of tailoring treatment to individual patients based on their genetic code. But is this actually happening, and what are the consequences of this shift in thinking?

The last 10 years have yielded significant and rapid advances in our understanding of the human genome. The impact on human health and clinical practice is already being widely felt. 

This course will discuss both the benefits and controversies surrounding the genetic revolution as it relates to modern medicine and its impact on society. The promise of personalised medicine will likely yield significant benefits for patients, yet raises a number of serious ethical and legal issues for health professionals, patients and the community. 

You will learn how genetic testing is currently used to guide treatment across diseases including cancer, neurodegenerative diseases and mental health, and infectious disease. You will also explore the power of genetics to impact disease prevention and diagnosis, and the social, legal, political and ethical implications of this new knowledge.


Module One: We begin by discussing what causes disease and development of personal traits – our genes or our environment? We will also explore how genes are passed from one generation to the next, and basic medical genetics.

Module Two: We will discuss how recent technological and scientific advances have heralded the advent of the genetic revolution, and the global approach and impact of these advances.

Module Three: We will explore the concept of risk, and multifactorial disease. We will describe examples of genes that pre-dispose patients to specific diseases, and discuss genetic testing and genetic counselling.

Module Four: We will investigate the use of personalised medicine today, and tease out the reality from the hype. We will also explore the apparent delay between research findings and translation to the clinic (“bench to bedside”), and the reasons for this.

Module Five: We will describe the rationale of medical patents, clinical trials, drug approval and regulation, and how these differ in various parts of the world.

Module Six:  We will analyse and reflect on how research and drug developments in personalised medicine are presented in the media, and the effect this may have on patients, policy & society both locally and globally.

Module Seven:  We will explore and debate the legal, religious, cultural and societal issues surrounding personalised medicine.

Module Eight: We will integrate what we have learnt in modules 1-7 in order to understand the potential and pitfalls of personalised medicine in our own specific discipline and cultural circumstances.

Taught by

Caroline Ford, Orin Chisholm, Sheri Nixdorf and Rachel Williams


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