Dr Philip Beer is a physician scientist with expertise in clinical cancer genomics, early phase therapeutic development and biomarker discovery. Dr Beer is Head of Genomic Strategy at the Glasgow Precision Oncology Laboratory and holds leadership roles in the commercial, healthcare and academic sectors. Dr Beer also works with the NHS to accelerate their provision of genomic cancer analysis. In the drug discovery space, he leads a translational medicine programme at a small pharmaceutical company, as well as providing clinical genomics support to the Precision-Panc clinical trials programme for pancreatic cancer patients.
Dr Beer took his BMedSci and BMBS in 1996 at the University of Nottingham. He received his MRCP in 1999 and FRCPath in 2004. His work as a trainee doctor leukaemia, which led to a PhD at Cambridge from 2005 to 2008 on molecular pathogenesis and genotype-phenotype associations in human leukaemias, and the integration of genetic markers into the patient care pathway. He followed this with four years’ postdoctoral training at the BC Cancer Agency in Vancouver from 2010 to 2014.
In 2014, Dr Beer was introduced to the idea of comprehensive genomic profiling of cancer with the Sanger Institute spinout, 14M Genomics. ‘I learnt an enormous amount about cancer genomics from the best people in the world,’ said Dr Beer. ‘I also discovered the dynamic environment of the biotech start-up, which was very exciting.’
Dr Beer joined the Glasgow Precision Oncology Laboratory at the University of Glasgow in 2016 as Head of Genomic Strategy and is also a therapeutic board member for the University’s Precision-Panc pancreatic cancer clinical trials programme.
Dr Beer maintains consulting roles across the NHS and with biotechs including OncoDNA cancer theranostics, Karus therapeutics and Cambridge Cancer Genomics. Internationally he is a research collaborator in cancer biology and model systems at the Mayo Clinic, and in clinical cancer genomics for the International Cancer Genome Consortium’s Accelerating Research in Genomic Oncology (ICGC-ARGO) initiative. His focus is on healthcare delivery and the development of novel cancer therapies.
‘I think genomics is a genuinely exciting field. There are so many possibilities and it is a time of enormous change. It does present challenges. I think there is a general lack of understanding of what genomics can do in cancer. It has been a bit in the shadow of inherited disease and there’s a lot of misinformation. People have assumed that inherited and cancer genomics are similar things, whereas they are very different. But it’s never easy when you’re at the cutting edge of anything.
‘There is great potential for those with tumours outside the four main cancers. And there is also the fact that we are in the process of breaking cancers down into smaller and smaller groups, with the thought that eventually you’ll almost get to the point where every patient is unique. We are a little way off that yet, but we understand there is a lot of complexity, even within the main cancer types.
‘And that, of course, presents a whole range of issues for the healthcare systems that need to deliver these things. Bridging that gap between what we have now and the future possibilities makes it all very interesting and exciting.’
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