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Eur Respir J. 2017 Oct 19;50(4). pii: 1700391. doi: 10.1183/13993003.00391-2017. Print 2017 Oct.

What is precision medicine?

Author information

Institut für Medizinische Biometrie und Statistik, Universität zu Lübeck, Lübeck, Germany
German Centre for Cardiovascular Research (DZHK), partner site Hamburg/Kiel/Lübeck, Lübeck, Germany.
Airway Research Center North (ARCN), Member of the German Center for Lung Research (DZL).
Dr von Hauner Children's Hospital, Ludwig Maximilians University, Munich, Germany.
Comprehensive Pneumology Center Munich (CPC-M), Member of the German Center for Lung Research (DZL).
Dept of Paediatric Respiratory Medicine, Inselspital, University Children's Hospital of Bern, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland.
Dept of Paediatric Pneumology, Allergology and Neonatology, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany.
Biomedical Research in Endstage and Obstructive Lung Disease Hannover (BREATH), Germany; Member of the German Center for Lung Research (DZL).
Dept of Paediatric Allergy and Pulmonology, Clinic of Paediatrics UKSH, University of Lübeck, Lübeck, Germany.


The term "precision medicine" has become very popular over recent years, fuelled by scientific as well as political perspectives. Despite its popularity, its exact meaning, and how it is different from other popular terms such as "stratified medicine", "targeted therapy" or "deep phenotyping" remains unclear. Commonly applied definitions focus on the stratification of patients, sometimes referred to as a novel taxonomy, and this is derived using large-scale data including clinical, lifestyle, genetic and further biomarker information, thus going beyond the classical "signs-and-symptoms" approach.While these aspects are relevant, this description leaves open a number of questions. For example, when does precision medicine begin? In which way does the stratification of patients translate into better healthcare? And can precision medicine be viewed as the end-point of a novel stratification of patients, as implied, or is it rather a greater whole?To clarify this, the aim of this paper is to provide a more comprehensive definition that focuses on precision medicine as a process. It will be shown that this proposed framework incorporates the derivation of novel taxonomies and their role in healthcare as part of the cycle, but also covers related terms.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Conflict of interest statement

Conflict of interest: Disclosures can be found alongside this article at

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