Whilst recently watching Sir Paul Nurse present an episode of Horizon, he touched on a very interesting issue in science and science reporting, that of uncertainty. Quite importantly he makes a distinction between the two principle types of uncertainty in science, that of the uncertainty of knowledge at the beginning of a research project, and that of a probabilistic nature. The example he uses for the second of these two distinctions is that of a treatment for a disease which may work for an individual, but when applied across a hundred patients 20 will respond and 80 will not. Straight away I thought about how that applies to my own research in pharamcogenetics. I had a little epiphany of sorts. Pharmacogenetics seeks to reduce that uncertainty in treatment across populations of patients to a point where it becomes clinically negligible.
For a while I’ve been struggling to find a simplistic, but accurate, way of explaining what exactly pharmacogenetics is; thanks to the wonderful Sir Paul Nurse I now have that explanation.