Friday, 30 January 2015

Obama Lifting Curtain on 'Precision Medicine' Plan


By Rita Rubin
WebMD Health News

Jan. 30, 2015 -- President Obama will unveil details Friday about the “Precision Medicine Initiative,” a move toward tailoring medical treatments for each person.

Obama announced the initiative in his State of the Union speech.

“Throughout history, most treatments have been designed for the average patient,” says Jo Handelsman, PhD. She's the associate director for science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “Precision medicine means moving beyond the one-size-fits-all approach to medicine.”

Matching a patient's blood type for a transfusion is an early example of precision medicine, says National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD. “But for much of medicine, this kind of personalizing has just not been possible. We just didn’t know enough,” he says.

It’s possible now because of advances in data science, better computing power, and electronic medical records. It also costs less to do something called genome sequencing, which maps out every gene in your body. It now costs $1,000 to sequence an entire genome (your genetic makeup) -- that's 100,000 times less than it cost 15 years ago.

Many of the details about how the initiative will be put into action have yet to be worked out, Collins says.

More than half of the president’s initial $215 million investment in the program -- $130 million -- will go to the NIH to develop a nationwide group of at least a million volunteers to participate in the research, according to the White House. Some of those volunteers might come from other studies that are already under way.

Participants will benefit personally by having access to data collected by researchers, Collins says. For example, some people in the existing studies have already had their whole genome or exome sequenced. The exome is part of the genome and contains the blueprints for proteins and most of the known disease-causing gene changes.

Protecting Participants’ Privacy

The White House is committed to protect the privacy and security of data collected by the initiative, Handelsman says. It is putting together a privacy working group that will include lawyers, ethicists, and representatives of patient organizations. Another $5 million for the initiative will go toward the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to set up standards to protect the data.

source : Obama Lifting Curtain on 'Precision Medicine' Plan

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