University of Michigan joins President Obama's Precision Medicine Initiative

The U-M School of Public Health will collaborate with Vanderbilt University’s Data and Research Support Center to organize and analyze data for the effort. 
By Jack McCarthy
03:44 PM
Michigan Obama Precision Medicine

The University of Michigan has been selected to participate in the President Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative, which is focusing on medicine that delivers targeted treatment that takes account of an individual patient’s health history, genes, environment, and lifestyle.

The initiative, announced by Obama in January 2015, was funded last week by the National Institutes of Health, authorizing $55 million to create four program areas: a Data and Research Support Center, Participant Technologies Centers, a Healthcare Provider Organizations network, and a Biobank, according to an announcement.

The U-M School of Public Health will collaborate with the Data and Research Support Center at Vanderbilt University to mine and organize data, and to create the tools to analyze the data. A nationwide goal is to obtain the DNA and relevant health information from 1 million people.

U-M has already been collecting data from patients who consent to share it for research. Michigan has a bank of information from about 35,000 people collected through its Michigan Genomics Initiative, which asks patients in the U-M Health System to provide data on their health. Part of the national plan is to get more institutions to follow suit.

"The goal is to make sure scientists can ask questions about the role of particular genes," said Goncalo Abecasis, Director of the Biostatistics Department in the U-M School of Public Health. "We are going to create tools to make it easy for them to ask those questions and get answers from the data, while keeping patient records safe."

Michigan's current areas of expertise include precision oncology, drug development and targeted therapies, obesity research, health outcomes research and analysis, social research and new approaches to big data.

"Over time, data provided by participants will help us answer important health questions, such as why some people with elevated genetic and environmental risk factors for disease still manage to maintain good health, and how people suffering from a chronic illness can maintain the highest possible quality of life,” said NIH Director Francis Collins, MD. “The more we understand about individual differences, the better able we will be to effectively prevent and treat illness."

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