Sage Commons Congress 2012

Matthew Todd | Intermolecular | April 24, 2012

I was at the Sage Commons Congress the last few days. Meetings should be full of challenging new ideas and full of spontaneous discussion. I’ve been to a lot of scientific meetings where both those things are absent (shockingly, actually) or where the meeting brings little beyond what could be learned from the literature. This congress was very interesting, driven by the passion of those people taking part to do science in new ways.

Sage has a mission to understand disease. I had thought that the plan was to assemble and share very large amounts of scientific data. That’s essentially true, but I realise I missed two things. (Many of the talks can be found here – I won’t link to individual talks because the non-skippable sponsor message is too annoying each time.)

1) The word “disease” is becoming a little redundant. The philosophy of the group at this congress, but I’m not sure how far beyond, is that the idea of a single “disease” as a static thing that affects everyone equally, is of limited usefulness. People respond to therapy differently. If you accept this then what’s left is not a disease but a “disease-patient-medicine interaction” – a dataset that includes the patient’s biota (DNA, age, habits etc) and also more nebulous factors (how are they feeling when they’re being given therapy).