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According to Alec Ross, the next trillion dollar industry will be created out of our very own genetic makeup. This industry is referred to as genomics. By definition, genomics is the study of genes and their function in recumbent DNA.

As described by Ross, genomic research has been present since Gregory Mendel, a Czech monk, located the foundations of heredity in the mid-19th century. In 1995, Haemophilus influenza, an infection causing bacteria, was sequenced for the very first time. Shortly after, in 2000, the first “draft” of a human genome was created. This draft cost a staggering $2.7 billion. However, Eric Lander, a human genomics researcher currently believes that the expensive price will drastically drop, allowing commercialization.

Understanding genetic makeups, is and will continue to significantly impact humanity.

In 2013, the genomics market was estimated to be just over $11 billion and is continuing to grow rapidly. According to PR Newswire, the US Genomics market is forecasted to grow at a CAGR of 7.28% between the years of 2013-2018 and is projected to grow globally at an 11.21% CAGR during the same time. Companies such as Amgen, Genentech, Fred Hutchinson and 23andMe, just to name a few are setting the pace of this genetic research. However, there is one company that hits especially close to home for our Zags. Gonzaga trustee emeriti Davey Sabey was one of the first in the world to receive a scientific approach to wellness created by Seattle based startup Arivale.

Arivale is a biotech company founded by the celebrated Dr. Lee Hood. Dr. Hood believes that genetic testing will “fundamentally change the world in terms of health care.” Sabey experienced great success after receiving a personalized preventative health care plan from the company. Results are gathered from an in-depth review of the individuals DNA. In an interview with Kiro 7 news station in Seattle, Sabey reported that overall, life is better when you are healthy.

Arivale is expecting massive growth in their cliental. The company is hoping to cut the cost of their services as the market of genomics increases. Arivale is exploring the possibility of offering their services to other companies at a subsidized cost for employees. This is clear depiction of how advanced scientific approaches to medicine are becoming more accessible and traditional.

Bert Vogelstein, professor at Johns Hopkins and one of the most sought after scientists in the world (knowledgeable in the future business of genomics) has dedicated his life to cancer research. Researchers are hopeful that they will be able to ultimately develop a product that will “melt away cancer” as a result of the advancements in data gathering capabilities. In the words of Alec Ross, this development will “make today’s most cutting-edge treatments look absolutely primitive by comparison.”

However, genomics goes far beyond cancer treatment and is extending to brain and cognitive research.

Genomics increases the ability to better treat and diagnosis mental illnesses. Medications such as anti-depressants are effective, but come with dangerous and potentially long- terms side effects. It is important to recognize that when doctors are prescribing these drugs they are not doing so based on any concrete genetic determination but rather by experience and success rates explaining why dosages constantly fluctuate.

However, there is also a very controversial side to genomics that is important to note. A common concern is that genomics may become too personalized for medicine. Personalized medicine is “a form of medicine that uses information about a person’s genes, proteins, and environment to prevent, diagnose, and treat disease” (National Cancer Institute 2011). Many believe that Mother Nature is responsible for creating our DNA and our genetic makeup should not be tampered with by medicine or technology. It will be interesting to follow this advancement over the next few years and see what practices are approved and what is rejected.

Gonzaga University and University of Washington recently announced a partnership to further the field of medicine. UW, a national leading medical research institute, joined the academic excellence of our Gonzaga family to form a new “community-based medical education program.” The program will offer UW’s award winning medical curriculum and occupy Gonzaga’s facilities in Eastern Washington. The partnership hopes to strengthen and expand medical education and research in the Spokane area. Genomics is familiar to the UW School of Medicine and offers a Division of Medical Genetics and Genome Sciences within their program. The goal of the program “is to address leading edge questions in biology and medicine by developing and applying genetic, genomic and computational approaches that take advantage of genomic information now available for humans, model organisms and a host of other species.”

It will be exciting to see how the Gonzaga and University of Washington partnership contribute to this area of research globally, within the state of Washington and the Inland Northwest.