Although he is an enthusiast and believer in the prospect of individualized medicine, Farrugia has the heart of a scientist, a questioning heart. While patients will be seen in clinical trials and their genetic makeups will be used to determine treatments, the Mayo Clinic isn't ready yet to open its doors to all patients seeking such treatment.
"If you are a person worried about [your] health and want to know what the future holds, and you want to find out your risk for high blood pressure, we think the strength of the data isn't there yet," Farrugia says.
Referring to Mayo's individualized medicine about breast cancer, known as the Beauty Project, Farrugia says he has high hopes, but is also realistic. "That is a research protocol. We have phase one and phase two and we are all excited, but we are also scientists," Farrugia says. "You do research … and you may not be right, but you've got to do it."
Aside from outcomes, the journey toward personalized medicine includes ethical complications.
Because of these concerns, Mayo has initiated a bioethical program "whose only job is to think about the ethical implications of what we are doing," Farrugia says. Within the bioethical program is a community advisory board, as well as a separate individualized medicine working group.