Personalized Prescription Drugs

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Stuart Bradford /

The technology to produce custom-made drugs for cancer treatment is under development, but it will take years for Big Pharma to make it a reality. On average, it takes groundbreaking drugs between 15 and 20 years to get on the market, and by that time they can be all but obsolete.

Geneticist Andrew Hessel wants to revolutionize the way drugs are tested and produced to facilitate individualized treatment of breast cancer, his philosophy being that every patient’s body requires a different regimen. In 2009 he founded the Pink Army Cooperative, a “DIY drug company” based in Alberta, Canada, that operates as a virtual global collective of researchers and drug developers openly sharing their research.

By operating as a co-op, Hessel explains in The Futurist (Jan.-Feb. 2010), the group hopes to take advantage of existing technology to craft “individualized therapies” for breast cancer patients using synthetic biology that maps out their genes. Affordable, personalized drugs can potentially be processed in days or weeks without compromising safety, and individuals would get one-on-one treatment.

“Curing cancer should be straightforward,” Hessel writes. “It’s about making a better antibiotic, but the search for a cure seems to have stalled. It’s time to see if open-source drug development can reboot the process.”

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