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Obama to Launch Personalized Medicine Research Initiative

Asking Congress for $215 million to compile genetic data of one million Americans for study

FRIDAY, Jan. 30, 2015 (HealthDay News) — In what could be a significant advance for personalized medicine, President Barack Obama will ask Congress to fund a research program aimed at developing treatments that would be tailored to a patient’s individual genes, the White House said Friday.

The plan would give scientists access to genetic and medical information for about one million American volunteers, according to news reports. The goal is to help physicians determine the best treatments for specific patients, Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), told The New York Times. The NIH will head the venture.

White House officials told reporters that $215 million is needed to launch the “precision medicine initiative” next fall. “We do not envision this as being a biobank, which would suggest a single repository for all the data or all the samples,” Jo Handelsman, Ph.D., associate director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, told the Times. “There are existing cohorts around the country that have already been started and have rich sources of data. The challenge in this initiative is to link them together and fill in the gaps.”

The aim of the U.S. program is to “harness the power of science to find individualized health solutions,” Collins told the Associated Press. He said the growing affordability of genomic sequencing combined with advances in computer-powered medicine have made it possible to tackle this approach on a large scale.

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