I was recently doing an interview with Delta Sky magazine, which is covering business and tourism in Memphis for an upcoming issue.  One of the topics we discussed was the growth of biomedical business in our community.  That discussion soon led to a discussion of personalized medicine and this community’s competitive advantage over other areas.

I believe Memphis has strength in the three elements that are required for leadership in this arena.  They are:

1) An active and aggressive medical research community.  No doubt about that with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the researchers at our universities and the research being conducted at our medical device companies.

2) An environment that encourages, enables and supports entrepreneurs and new company development, particularly tech transfer from research to market.  My last Smart City posting examined that in detail.

3) The logistics and biologistics infrastructure and experience that allows trusted, environmentally protected, and trackable overnight delivery, all with the latest available cutoffs possible. Here is where we shine brighter than any other community in the world, thanks to FedEx, the distribution investments of our medical device companies and our airport.

So what do we mean by personalized medicine?  In today’s world of medicine, when most people see a doctor, a diagnosis is made and a medicine is prescribed.  If I have the same illness, I will likely get the same treatment.  In most cases it works pretty well; better with some than others.  The trouble is, although the illness or symptoms are the same, we are each very different individuals.  We react differently to every stimulus, good or bad, because we have different metabolisms, different health histories and genetic differences of all kinds.

In tomorrow’s world of medicine, you will see a doctor, a diagnosis will be made and every aspect of your treatment will be customized to exactly who you are, right down to a specific gene variation.  That is Personalized Medicine.

In the laboratories and research centers, in the clinical trials, in the distribution centers across our metro area, the steps toward the future – a future of personalized medicine – are being taken.  While individual genetic and treatment breakthroughs are poised to take place in laboratories across our city, our greatest competitive advantage will be in our ability to receive materials, turn around treatments and ship the results faster and with a greater degree of reliability than anyone else.

Someday in the future, the roads leading to and from our airport could be lined with some of the most sophisticated labs in the world, doing just that.  A medical-based Aerotropolis.

While on a case-by-case basis, the overall community impacts are small, in the macro sense, the success of the initiatives taking place in Memphis will have a big impact on our local economy and on the overall financial status of health care.

If you are interested in a great overview of the state of personalized medicine in Memphis, take a look at the most recent Bioworks Magazine at http://www.memphisbioworks.org/documents/BioworksFall2011.pdf or pick up a copy of the Sept./Oct. Memphis Business Quarterly, with the Bioworks Magazine insert.

You will be impressed at all that is happening here.