I was at a conference last week, and one of the speakers noted that the promise of genomics in drug development had not yet been realized. The implication was one of disappointment.

That brought to mind the sayings of futurist Paul Saffo. “Never mistake a clear view for a short distance.” He refers to the unexpectedly long time between the development of new technologies, and the time it takes to adequately realize their benefits. “It turns out it takes 30 years for a new idea to seep into the culture. Technology does not drive change. It is our collective response to the options and opportunities presented by technology that drives change.” Saffo says. “Because we assume adoption will be more rapid, we inevitably overestimate the short-term and under-estimate the long-term impact of new technologies.”

The promise of genomics is being realized, but the impacts we can see directly at present are in testing and assays – take for example the use of genetic testing to determine the likelihood of a women’s positive response to tamoxifen for treating breast cancer.

And a few drugs are coming on the market. Look at Benlysta, a new treatment for lupus, from Human Genome of Rockville, MD, or telaprevir from Vertex for hepatitis C.

In the words of the author William Gibson, “The future has arrived; it’s just not evenly distributed.”