The precision medicine initiative proposed by President Barack Obama last week would center on a huge new biobank containing medical records and genetic information for perhaps a million Americans. It would not be created from scratch by enrolling new volunteers, however, but would instead pull together existing studies into one giant database.
That’s according to several scientists familiar with the broad outlines of the project who spoke on background with ScienceInsider. The biobank would be used for studies ranging from finding new disease-gene associations to working out how to use genomic and other molecular information in routine medical care. On Friday, the White House is expected to reveal details of the initiative, which will reportedly cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
Such a national biobank would put the United States in line with other countries, such as the United Kingdom, Iceland, and Japan, which have built large population databases for research and medical care. A similar U.S. biobank has long been on the wish list of National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins, who led the effort to sequence the human genome as director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI).