President Barack Obama this morning unveiled the Precision Medicine Initiative he’ll include in his 2016 budget request to a White House East Room audience packed with federal science leaders, academic researchers, patient and research advocacy groups, congressional guests, and drug industry executives. By and large, they seemed to cheer his plan to find ways to use genomics and other molecular information to tailor patient care.
After poking fun at his own knowledge of science—a model of chromosomes made from pink swim noodles “was helpful to me,” he said—Obama explained what precision medicine is: “delivering the right treatments, at the right time, every time to the right person.” Such an approach “gives us one of the greatest opportunities for new medical breakthroughs that we have ever seen,” he added. He went on to describe the $215 million initiative, which includes new support for cancer genomics and molecularly targeted drug trials at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and a plan to study links among genes, health, and environment in 1 million Americans by pooling participants in existing cohort studies.
“So if we have a big data set—a big pool of people that’s varied—then that allows us to really map out not only the genome of one person, but now we can start seeing connections and patterns and correlations that helps us refine exactly what it is that we’re trying to do with respect to treatment,” the president explained in his 20-minute speech, flanked by a red-and-blue model of the DNA double helix.