$215 million precision-medicine initiative takes shape

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The US President Barack Obama has earmarked US$215 million from his proposed 2016 budget to precision medicine. These funds will “encourage creative approaches to precision medicine, test them rigorously, and ultimately use them to build the evidence base needed to guide clinical practice,” write the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins and the US National Cancer Institute (NCI) Director Harold Varmus in an article outlining the initiative's aims (New Engl. J. Med. 30 Jan 2015 [epub ahead of print]).

Under the proposed initiative, the NIH would receive $130 million to develop a national research cohort of a million or more volunteers, who will be followed over time. By combining medical records, genomics, metabolite analysis, microbiome analysis, environmental and lifestyle data and more, the NIH hopes to improve its understanding of health and disease over time. The million-participant cohort will be assembled in part from existing cohort studies, and there has been speculation that projects like the NIH-funded Framingham Heart Study could be one such resource.

The NCI would receive $70 million to scale up efforts to identify genomic drivers of cancer. “Oncology is the clear choice for enhancing the near-term impact of precision medicine,” write Collins and Varmus. To realize the possibility, they add, the community needs to analyse more cancer genomes, and needs to build a “cancer knowledge network” that can store the resulting molecular and medical data and deliver them to scientists, health-care workers and patients. The funds will also be used to address unexplained drug resistance, genomic heterogeneity of tumours and our limited knowledge about how to best use drug combinations.

The US Food and Drug Administration would receive $10 million to improve its ability to incorporate genomic data into its regulatory framework.

The US Congress now needs to approve the proposed budget, which also called for $1 billion in extra funding for the NIH (an increase of 3.3% from the 2015 budget).

Genomics also got a boost in the United Kingdom, where researchers started enrolling subjects into the 100,000 Genomes Project. The British Government announced the project in 2012, and it focuses on rare inherited diseases, cancer and infections.

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Mullard, A. $215 million precision-medicine initiative takes shape. Nat Rev Drug Discov 14, 155 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrd4569

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