Denmark’s government have invested heavily into precision medicine over the next four years. A central part of this commitment will be the country’s national genome centre. PMF editor Mark Glover spoke to its director Gert Sørensen (pictured) and discussed the importance of clear communication to the Danish public about the initiative and what he hopes the project will achieve.
At what stage of the project are you now at?
The Danish Parliament are in the process of debating the legal bill in Denmark, and the law that will regulate this database. I am delighted that the legal bill as well as the establishment of the National Genome Centre is being met with a great deal of support. The support comes from politicians as well as key healthcare stakeholders such as the Danish Regions, patient organizations and the Organization of Danish Medical Societies.
The bill is accompanied by an active public debate. As part of the Danish National strategy for Personalised Medicine we have a high focus on patient involvement, openness and dialogue with the public. The support from patients and the public is crucial when introducing a bill such as this. Ethical questions and topics such as data security are important to address. Therefore, information sharing, communication and involvement will be central action points.
What do you hope to achieve?
There is significant potential for improved patient treatment particularly in cancer treatment and heart disease. I hope that the data will be used to help doctors and researchers to discover more treatments that can help patients. This is what I sincerely hope for. This is the goal of everything.
What is the major challenge?
To fulfil the potential of precision medicine through a collaboration of healthcare stakeholders, the regions, the universities, research institutions, hospitals is crucial. To engage this large and broad set of stakeholders is challenging as various interests and considerations are at stake. However, a huge advantage of the Danish initiative is that it involves brings together stakeholders at the highest level possible.
What is the focus of the Danish strategy?
Several of our neighbouring countries have introduced initiatives in personalised medicine for example, England, Sweden and Finland. Each country has their different approach and focus. The Danish strategy focuses on the need of the patient as well as to build up the infrastructural needs for patient treatment in the health care sector. We have an opportunity to use this technology for the benefit of patients, for people who are ill. We have to make an effort to make this happen.
At the same time we also have to make sure that this takes place in a context that is reliable and that people find transparent. We want to take good care of data and therefore take good care of patients.
Gert Sørenson will be speaking at the Nordic Precision Medicine Forum in Copenhagen which takes place from March 20 – 21. You can register for the event here.