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RIDING ON THE WAVE OF A NEW FRONTIER
What would you do when six of your close friends suffering from advanced stages of cancer come to you for medical help, but all you could do was to recommend that they adhere to the prescribed healthcare treatments, knowing fully well that it was not going to work? Lew Hon Kean, Chief Executive Officer of Genecare Sdn Bhd shares with TMV about his experience and how he set up his genomics-based healthcare solution company in 2017, which focuses on Precision Preventive Healthcare .
As a pharmacist, Lew Hon Kean felt helpless as he could not do much to alleviate the suffering that his friends went through. He wished that he was able to do something to prolong their lives. Unfortunately, the existing healthcare approach and system meant pharmacists like Lew can only play a supporting role in the patient’s well-being.
“Those six friends died within three to six months of diagnosis of cancer. That incident struck me hard. I asked myself, am I running a pharmacy business or am I really helping people to improve their lives?” shares Lew who is the Chief Executive Officer of Genecare Sdn Bhd.
“Coincidentally, an old friend contacted me to inform about genomics-based healthcare solution. Genomic is a complete set of DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid) in a single individual and variation in DNA sequences give rise to inter-individual differences in health risks and complications. We learnt about DNA in Pharmacology at university but genomics studies were fairly new and DNA sequencing was not commercially viable back then. If genome profiling was commercially available then, I would have helped my friends.”
Genomics-based healthcare solution allows the identification of an individual’s risk of getting diseases including cancers as well as differences in dietary requirements and response to medications. The genome profiling process involves extracting DNA from the patient’s blood samples followed by next-generation sequencing
, before a comprehensive analysis was performed to identify the patient’s genomic health data.
With genome profiles, doctors are able to diagnose the patient’s health accurately without having the patient sharing family medical history and other information which more often not, is based on the patient’s perception. “Genome profiling increases early detection of diseases as well as reduces mis-diagnosis and under-diagnosis of health conditions,” explains Lew.
Additionally, other healthcare providers such as medical practitioners, pharmacists and dietitians are able to leverage on genome profiling to recommend the right medication and/or supplement dosage and a precise healthcare plan for the patient.
“For example, a thirty-seven-year-old Malaysian woman has been treated for vision problems for some time. Through genome profiling, we discovered that she has Acute Zonal Occult Outer Retinopathy disease – a very rare disease caused by problems in the thyroid glands,” says Lew.
“Genomics is relatively new. Although President Obama launched precision medicine initiatives in the United States in 2015, we still lack practical applications and experience. That is why we need to increase public awareness especially among healthcare providers and academicians about genomics and its benefits in precision medicine,” suggests the former pharmacist.
“To increase public awareness about genomics, we work closely with various associations for healthcare providers, conduct monthly talks and collaborate with Taiwan Precision Medicine Society to deliver courses and to certify our healthcare providers and academicians in genomic sequencing as it is a highly specialised and technical process.”
Lew adds, “We also source technology expertise in Taiwan, and we do a lot of fund-raising within the region as well.”
Part of Genecare’s commercial plans is to introduce NexTx, an online platform for healthcare providers to access the patient’s genomic profiles (with consent) via blockchain applications with the purpose of providing the most effective and accurate healthcare solutions for them.
Genomics-based healthcare solution is a groundbreaking approach from the current primary healthcare system, at least in Malaysia and within the region. So, what are Lew’s plans for the future?
“We currently have a presence in Vietnam, Philippines and Indonesia, and intend to expand to Thailand, Myanmar and Australia. We have also recently received an invitation to set up our company in the United Kingdom. We hope that would help us to expedite genomics profiling and precision medicine in a larger way in the South-East Asia region.”