What is personalized medicine?

Would a teenage boy buy the same clothes as his grandmother? Probably not. But when they get sick, they’re likely to receive the same medical treatment, despite their many differences. And so will everyone else.

That’s because even the world’s best scientists and doctors don’t fully understand yet how different people develop disease and respond to treatments. The result is a "one-size-fits-all" approach to medicine that is based on broad population averages. This traditional practice often misses its mark because each person’s genetic makeup is slightly different from everyone else’s, often in very important ways that affect health.

The advent of personalized medicine is moving us closer to more precise, predictable and powerful health care that is customized for the individual patient. Our growing understanding of genetics and genomics – and how they drive health, disease and drug responses in each person – is enabling doctors to provide better disease prevention, more accurate diagnoses, safer drug prescriptions and more effective treatments for the many diseases and conditions that diminish our health.

Tailoring health care to each person’s unique genetic makeup – that’s the promising idea behind personalized medicine, also variously known as individualized medicine, precision medicine or genomic medicine.