The emerging field of precision medicine continues to offer hope for improving patient outcomes and accelerating the development of innovative and effective therapies that are tailored to the unique characteristics of each patient. To date, however, progress in the development of precision medicines has been limited due to a lack of reliable biomarkers for many diseases. Biomarkers include any defined characteristic—ranging from blood pressure to gene mutations—that can be used to measure normal biological processes, disease processes, or responses to an exposure or intervention. They can be extremely powerful tools for guiding decision-making in both drug development and clinical practice, but developing enough scientific evidence to support their use requires substantial time and resources, and there are many scientific, regulatory, and logistical challenges that impede progress in this area.
On October 27th, 2015, the Center for Health Policy at The Brookings Institution convened an expert workshop that included leaders from government, industry, academia, and patient advocacy groups to identify and discuss strategies for addressing these challenges. Discussion focused on several key areas: the development of a universal language for biomarker development, strategies for increasing clarity on the various pathways for biomarker development and regulatory acceptance, and approaches to improving collaboration and alignment among the various groups involved in biomarker development, including strategies for increasing data standardization and sharing. The workshop generated numerous policy recommendations for a more cohesive national plan of action to advance precision medicine.