Precision Medicine & Society Conference

The first Columbia University Precision Medicine & Society Symposium: “Precision Medicine: Its Impact on Patients, Providers, and Public Health.” The Precision Medicine & Society Program is an integral part of Columbia’s Precision Medicine Initiative (CPMI), which grew out of conversations between President Lee Bollinger and Dr. Roy Vagelos.

We heard from physicians, social scientists, bio-ethicists, journalists, science policy leaders, economists, and humanists who are thinking hard about the social, political, and economic consequences of precision medicine. As cutting-edge basic research is translated into clinical applications, and as advances in the analysis of large datasets come to inform public health policy, there is an urgent need to consider the potential implications for patients, the physician-patient relationship, the economic arrangements underlying the provision of health care, and the social contract between citizens and public health institutions.

The Precision Medicine & Society Program—a University-wide collaboration of disciplines at Columbia University—was created to jumpstart academic discussion and research about these issues. It brings together biomedical and public health researchers, clinicians and bio-ethicists working at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center with social scientists, legal scholars and humanists in the Faculty of Arts & Sciences and the Law School.

While advances in diagnosis, targeting, personalization and prediction remain for the most part promissory, there is little doubt that over the long term they will transform the practice of medicine, the meaning of disease, and the nature of patienthood. Precision medicine will alter the division of labor among clinicians, information scientists, and researchers, and rechannel the flow of personal data from patients to doctors, healthcare organizations and for-profit entities. This will require fundamental adaptations in medical education, in the relations between doctors and patients, in legal and regulatory frameworks, and in arrangements for payment and reimbursement. We believe that Columbia University, as a leading teaching and research institution, is ideally positioned to lead the conversation on these issues.

Our thanks to President Bollinger, the CPMI, and, especially, to its director, Tom Maniatis, for supporting the Precision Medicine & Society Program.

Paul S. Appelbaum, MD, Elizabeth K. Dollard Professor of Psychiatry, Medicine and Law

Gil Eyal, PhD, Professor of Sociology

Co-Directors of the Columbia Precision Medicine and Society Program


Harold Varmus, MD, Weill Cornell Medical College

What “Precision Medicine” Means for a Biomedical Scientist


Paul Starr, PhD, Princeton University

The Social Challenges of Precision Medicine


Naveen Rao, MD, Rockefeller Foundation

Applying “Precision” to Community Health


Eric Juengst, PhD, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill School of Medicine

Ethical Challenges in Precision Approaches to Infectious Disease: The Case of Phylogenetic Tuberculosis Sequencing


Sophie Day, PhD, Goldsmiths, University of London, and Imperial College London

Historicizing Precision Medicine for Breast Cancer by Reference to Previous Service Developments in a London (UK) Hospital Group


Catherine Bourgain, PhD, French National Institute for Health and Medical Research; Cermes3; CNRS, EHESS, Inserm, and University Paris Paris-Est University

Making Tumor Genetics Doable in the Clinic. Insights from a French Case Study


Ashveen Peerbaye, PhD, Laboratoire Interdisciplinaire Sciences Innovations Sociétés (LISIS, CNRS)

Making Tumor Genetics Doable in the Clinic. Insights from a French Case Study


Tanya Stivers, PhD, UCLA

What Would Precision Medicine in the Clinic Look Like? Some Lessons from the Return of Exome Sequencing Results


Antonio Regaldo, MIT Technology Review

Precision Gone Mad: A Reporter’s Adventures with Polygenic IQ Scores, Pay-to-Play Gene Therapy, and CRISPR Babies


Jonathan LaPoo, MD, CBS News; NYU Langone Medical Center

Reporting on Precision Medicine for CBS News


Jeremy Greene, MD, PhD, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

The Computer in the Clinic: Past Futures of Precision Medicine


Matt Might, PhD, University of Alabama, Birmingham

The Algorithm for Precision Medicine


Dana Goldman, PhD, University of Southern California

The Economics of Personalized Medicine and the Value of Improved Diagnostics


Frank Lichtenberg, PhD, Columbia University

How Many Life Years Have New Drugs Saved? A 3-way Fixed-Effects Analysis of 66 Diseases in 27 Countries, 2000–2013


Christina Cogdell, PhD, University of California, Davis

Designing Complexity: Pushing the Limits of Big Data


Peter Lloyd Jones, PhD, Lancaster University, UK

Imagining the Future of PM: Design & Science for Next-Gen Cell-/Sel-Fies


Jenny Reardon, PhD, University of California, Santa Cruz

Can Precision Medicine Be Just?

See our video library for conference talks here.