Obama Pushes ‘Precision Medicine Initiative’

David Jackson, USA Today, January 30, 2015

President Obama asked Congress on Friday to approve $215 million for a “Precision Medicine Initiative” designed to help doctors tailor treatments to the individual characteristics of their patients, officials said.

New tools can help doctors assess a patient’s genes, environment, and lifestyle, improving the chances for better treatment and also helping the overall fight against diseases like cancer and diabetes, said Obama and aides.

At a White House event featuring doctors and researchers, Obama defined the promise precision medicine as “delivering the right treatments at the right time–every time–to the right person.”

As part of the project, researchers will look for a million volunteers to contribute to a database of genetic information. This and other tools can help doctors assess how lifestyle choices–including diet, exercise, smoking, and alcohol–affect a person’s genetic makeup, and which kinds of treatments can affect which patients.

“Just like analyzing our DNA teaches us more about who we are than ever before, analyzing data from one of the largest research populations ever assembled will teach us more about the connections between us than ever before,” Obama said.

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The $215 million budget request is a down payment on a years-long project, officials said.

Of the budget request, $130 million would be used to seek volunteers and start the database; $70 million would be tagged to the National Cancer Institute for research to fight against that disease.

Another $10 million would go to the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates the technology used to analyze DNA, and $5 million would be used to develop health information technology with privacy protections.

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