President Obama will call for $215 million in his upcoming budget proposal to invest in personalized medicine — a cutting-edge field that allows doctors to take individuals’ differences into account when treating them.
The president will outline the plan, which he’s dubbing the “Precision Medicine Initiative," in a speech at the White House on Friday morning. The funding would go to several federal agencies involved in discovering new ways to treat patients with cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases.
A majority of the funding, $130 million, would go to the National Institutes of Health for gathering a pool of a million or more volunteers to help researchers better understand how particular diseases affect a person based on their particular genetic makeup.
Another $70 million would go to the National Cancer Institute for amping up efforts to identify genomic drivers in cancer. And the Food and Drug Administration and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology would get smaller buckets of funding to build databases towards the effort and protect privacy.
“For much of medicine, this kind of personalization has not been possible,” said NIH Director Francis Collins, who announced details of the plan with other top health officials Thursday. “That’s all changing now and at an unprecedented pace.”
The ultimate goal with the pool of volunteers would be to obtain a full genome sequence on as many as possible, of course with their permission, Collins said. He said the effort wouldn’t have been possible even 10 years ago, but now it’s much more feasible.
“It’s now possible because of the drop in cost in DNA decoding and the availability of electronic health records to do things we couldn’t have done a decade ago, and that’s one of the reasons we’re emboldened to say 'yes, we can do this,' ” Collins said.
Obama briefly mentioned the initiative in his State of the Union address last week, earning applause from medical groups, who have long worried about cuts to medical research.
“I want the country that eliminated polio and mapped the human genome to lead a new era of medicine — one that delivers the right treatment at the right time,” he said at the time, adding that he wants new investment to “bring us closer to curing diseases like cancer and diabetes.”
His push for more medical research comes as congressional Republicans push for policies speeding up the discovery, development and delivery of new cures. Earlier this week, House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton released a discussion draft that came out of a series of hearings he and Rep. Diana DeGette held last year on the matter.
And Thursday, Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Richard Burr of North Carolina released a report on the same topic.
Asked about those efforts, Collins said he sees plenty of room to work together. “There’s a wealth of potential there,” he said.