President Obama on Friday announced the “Precision Medicine Initiative,” a $215-million research effort to collect genetic information from one million or more Americans with the hope of developing personalized treatments to prevent and treat disease.
The new program will take advantage of technological advances that have made it possible to analyze a person’s complete genetic makeup quickly and affordably, Obama said at the White House event on Friday.
“Precision medicine gives us one of the greatest opportunities for new medical breakthroughs that we have ever seen,” Obama said. The initiative, he said, has the potential to bring America “closer to curing diseases like cancer and diabetes, and gives all of us access to the personalized information that we need to keep ourselves and our families healthy.”
The initiative includes $130 million for the National Institutes of Health to create a nationwide pool of at least one million volunteers — one of the largest research populations ever — so that researchers can study their genes, lifestyles and environments to better understand how to individualize care. Under the plan, the National Cancer Institute would receive $70 million to identify genes that cause different types of cancer, and then use that information to develop new treatments to target those aberrations.
Obama is also requesting $10 million for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to develop new methods for evaluating next-generation genetic tests, and another $5 million for health information technology to ensure private patient data is exchanged securely.
American Heart Association past president Donna Arnett, Ph.D., attended Friday’s event and called the initiative “tremendously exciting.”
“Harnessing recent advances in genomics, computing technology and electronic medical records will really accelerate the discovery of genetic causes of diseases, including cardiovascular disease,” said Arnett, chairperson of the department of epidemiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health.
Arnett is one of eight researchers recently awarded $500,000 as part of the AHA-funded Cardiovascular Genome-Phenome Study, or CVGPS, a $30-million initiative to speed the discovery of personalized treatments and prevention for cardiovascular diseases and stroke — the world’s leading causes of death.
Arnett’s project aims to decode the genetic factors that determine the structure and function of a specific section of the heart in African-Americans with high blood pressure.
Many Americans are ready to support the president’s initiative, Research!America president and CEO Mary Woolley said in a statement. She noted that polls show more than half of Americans are willing to share personal health information to advance research and improve patient care.
“This initiative is a major step towards building a stronger public-private partnership to leverage health data and technology to accelerate the discovery and development of tailored treatments for patients,” said Woolley.
Funding of the initiative, which is part of the president’s budget request for the 2016 fiscal year, is subject to congressional approval.
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