The name of the group -- the International Serious Adverse Events Consortium -- makes it sound like the members support side effects causing serious problems, but that couldn't be further from the truth.

Seven large drugmakers have come together to try and find genetic variations that cause serious side effects in some patients. The consortium will seek to find genetic differences that cause serious liver toxicity and Stevens-Johnson syndrome, a rare but serious disease caused by an allergic reaction to everything from painkillers to antibiotics.

The consortium includes some pretty big names. Pfizer (NYSE:PFE), Abbott Laboratories (NYSE:ABT), GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK), Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), Roche, Sanofi-Aventis (NYSE:SNY), and Wyeth (NYSE:WYE) have already pledged millions of dollars. The companies will mostly be providing money and guidance -- the actual research will be done by academic research labs.

Of course, the drug companies aren't making the investment out of the goodness of their hearts. Some drugs -- Pfizer's Bextra, for example -- have been pulled off the market because they caused severe side effects in a select group of patients. In other instances, such as Bristol-Myers Squibb's (NYSE:BMY) blood-thinning drug Coumadin, genetic tests have been developed to determine the patients likely to have severe reactions to the medicine. Essentially, the consortium's goal is to have more Coumadins and fewer Bextras.

In an era of increasingly personalized medicine, look for more of these types of studies -- both in consortiums and by individual companies. If companies can find the genetic differences that allow a drug to work on some people, but not on others, they should be able to push drugs through their pipelines that would otherwise end up in the trash.

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Fool contributor Brian Orelli, Ph.D., doesn't own shares of any company mentioned in this article. The Fool has a disclosure policy.