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Steve Jobs Left a Legacy on Personalized Medicine

Fri, 09/27/2013 - 9:30am
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

If you need proof of how information technology is influencing biotech, take a look at Foundation Medicine, the Boston-area diagnostics company that went public on Wednesday.

Its stock price quickly doubled after the IPO. And one reason is surely its links to stratospheric tech names from the West Coast. The company is backed by both Google and Bill Gates, and the core idea behind its technology was once tried out on Apple founder Steve Jobs.

Foundation sells a $5,800 test that looks in detail at the DNA of a person with cancer. The concept is that a comprehensive catalogue of genetic mutations in a person’s tumor will show exactly what’s driving the cancer and help doctors choose what drug will work best (see “Foundation Medicine: Personalizing Cancer Drugs.”)

It turns out that Jobs was one of the first people—and certainly the best-known—to try this kind of all-in genetic strategy to beat cancer. As recounted in Walter Isaacson’s biography of the Apple CEO, Jobs spent $100,000 to learn the DNA sequence of his genome and that of the tumors killing him. Jobs was jumping between treatments and hoped DNA would provide clues about where to turn next.

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