President Barack Obama wants to dedicate $215 million in his upcoming 2016 budget to a research initiative aimed at helping doctors develop personalized medical treatments for their patients.
At a White House event on Friday morning, Obama unveiled four steps in his "Precision Medicine Initiative," which he noted has bipartisan support in Congress. "This is how you know that the moment is right: there is bipartisan support for the idea here in Washington," Obama said to cheers and claps from the audience, which was filled with medical professionals and patients.
"Most medical treatments have been designed for the 'average patient' ... treatments can be very successful for some patients but not for others."'
Included in the budget request is $130 million for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to create a research group of a million volunteers who will analyze data; $70 million to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) for research to fight the disease; $10 million to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to develop databases needed to support aspects of the program; and $5 million to secure patient data-sharing across systems.
"The Precision Medicine Initiative will leverage advances in genomics, emerging methods for managing and analyzing large data sets while protecting privacy, and health information technology to accelerate bio-medical discoveries," the White House wrote in a statement on Friday.
Obama is expected to send his 2016 budget proposal to Congress on Monday. The request for the fiscal year starts on Oct. 1.
The idea of precision medicine, which Obama also interchangeably referred to as "personalized medicine," is to discover treatment that targets the underlying cause of disease. It includes sequencing the genes of a cancer patient's tumor to help doctors choose a tailored drug to fight it, and to discover the root causes of other diseases.
"Most medical treatments have been designed for the 'average patient.' As a result of this 'one-size-fits-all-approach,' treatments can be very successful for some patients but not for others," the White House said.
During his State of the Union address last week, Obama mentioned an initiative to fund personalized medicine. He gave few details then, but said the plan could bring about cures for cancer and diabetes. He called on Americans to remember their legacy as a nation that eliminated polio and mapped the humane genome to lead a new era of medicine. In 2013, Obama unveiled a proposal for a $100 million so-called BRAIN science initiative to help prevent and treat autism, Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, schizophrenia, stroke, traumatic brain injury, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
In discussing his initiative on Friday, Obama said he gathered medical experts and patients "to harness what is most special about America," listing the spirit of innovation, taking risks, tinkering, and attempting new endeavors. He acknowledged that medical breakthroughs take time, and investments don't always pay off because research can sometimes lead experts down blind alleys.
Attendees included Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, White House Science Adviser Dr. John Holdren, Dr. Harold Varmus of NCI, and Dr. Francis Collins of NIH.