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a16z Podcast: The Genetics of Drug Response

In this episode of the a16z Podcast introduced by Vijay Pande (based on a presentation at our summit event), Russ Altman, Stanford professor of bioengineering — and former chairman of their Bioengineering Department — takes us on a short but deep tour of the possibilities of genomics in drug discovery. Including how building a large bank of human genetic variations will change our understanding and optimization of drug response.

Altman (who also hosts his own radio show, “The Future of Everything” on SiriusXM and Stanford radio) describes how in much the same way we inherit our grandmother’s eyes, or our great grandfather’s ears, we also inherit a response to certain drugs: whether they work or not, what side effects we’ll experience, how we react to them.

But it’s not just genetics information that matters here; it’s also molecular, cellular, tissue, and other data about the whole organism. By applying data science and bioinformatics on a more complete data “bank” like this, for the first time, we can see the whole range of actions and side effects — as well as possible new uses — that specific drugs will have on specific individuals.