09 February 2015
ByAppeared in BioNews 789
The US President, Barack Obama, has revealed details of a multi-agency personalised medicine research plan.
The $215 million Precision Medicine Initiative will be used to collect and analyse health related data from a large number of people in order to relate underlying genetic information to health and treatment response.
In his State of the Union Address, President Obama said that the initiative would give Americans 'access to the personalised information we need to keep ourselves and our families healthier'.
Under the plan, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) will receive $130 million to create a database containing health information from one million or more volunteers in the USA. This 'biobank' will include genetic, medical and microbiotic data from both healthy and sick volunteers with the aim that it will be used to accelerate medical research and to 'personalise' treatments to patients.
'Most medical treatments have been designed for the "average patient"', a White House statement said. 'As a result of this "one-size-fits-all" approach, treatments can be very successful for some patients, but not for others.'
'Personalised' medicine instead tailors treatments to take into account individual variability, so that healthcare decisions can be informed by a person's genetics.
Similar biobanks already exist in several countries, including Japan and the UK, and research into the genetics of diseases has in recent years resulted in the use of cancer gene testing to guide the treatment of patients with certain mutations (see BioNews 741 and 773).
The new funding initiative also includes $70 million to be given to the US National Cancer Institute to expand research into genetic mutations associated with cancers and to develop more effective approaches to treating the disease.
Funding will also be given to the US Food and Drug Agency to maintain necessary databases, and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to develop standards to ensure privacy and security of the information.
Many of the finer details of the Precision Medicine Initiative are as yet undecided. The director of the NIH, Dr Francis Collins, states that input is now needed from a range of healthcare professionals to 'help us put real specifics into what is now an exciting but somewhat general plan'.