Obama puts precision medicine on radar

Initiative also sets aside funding for interoperability
By Erin McCann
11:13 AM
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DNA
The White House has announced that as part of its nearly $4 trillion 2016 budget, it will carve out a sizable piece for a new initiative dedicated to precision medicine, which officials say will even include interoperability standards. 
 
The Obama Administration will put aside $215 million of the 2016 budget for what's being called the Precision Medicine Initiative, a project White House officials say will "pioneer a new model of patient-powered research." By funding various genomic and information technology projects, the initiative is expected to accelerate innovative and individual approaches to disease treatment and prevention. 
 
Four federal stakeholders will receive the lion's share of the funding, officials pointed out – one of those being the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. 
 
 
The initiative calls for allocating $5 million to ONC to support the development of interoperability standards that many in the healthcare industry have been calling on in recent months. This past week, ONC released a draft interoperability roadmap, calling for national standards by the end of 2017.

The "time has come for us to be more explicit about standards," said ONC Chief Karen DeSalvo, MD, in a Jan. 30 press call detailing the roadmap, a more than 150-page document addressing everything from governance, standards and certification to privacy and security. 

 

 
The Precision Medicine Initiative will also allocate $130 million to the National Institutes for Health for the development of a voluntary national research cohort of one million or more volunteers to propel our understanding of health and disease and set the foundation for a new way of doing research through engaged participants and open, responsible data sharing.
 
Another $70 million will go to the National Cancer Institute for genomics work relating to cancer treatment. 
 
$10 million will go to the Food and Drug Administration to acquire additional expertise and advance the development of high quality, curated databases to support the regulatory structure needed to advance innovation in precision medicine and protect public health.
 
The announcement is a welcome one for David Lo, MD, professor of biomedical sciences at UC Riverside School of Medicine.

"This initiative will enhance our ability to take full advantage of new innovations in personalized medicine, relying on exciting discoveries in human clinical genomics," he said in a prepared statement.

As Lo explained, the industry is just beginning to learn how an individual's genetic differences impact one's response to diseases, diet and the environment, thus the initiative "will enable more specialized strategies for treating diseases that are sensitive to each individual's unique characteristics."