President Obama’s 2016 budget includes an investment of $215 million into a new medical industry that aims to use collected patient data and in turn, target specific diseases like cancer and diabetes, tailoring the treatment to each specific case.
The Precision Medicine Initiative, introduced in Obama’s State of the Union address, will study individuals’ genes, their environments, and the lifestyles of patients willing to give up such information.
“Right now, most medical treatments are designed for the average patient,” a White House release states. “But one size doesn’t fit all — enter Precision Medicine.”
This field of medicine is touted as going beyond treating symptoms of a disease and pinpointing the underlying cause at the molecular level on a case-by-case basis. Several success stories are included in the release, but it is careful to add, “Translating these successes to a larger scale will require a national effort.”
Therefore, the president is asking for “all hands on deck:” patients, hospitals, researchers and privacy experts.
The New York Times reported that White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Associate Director Jo Handelsman said the initiative is not “envisioned” as a “biobank” or “a single repository for all the [collected] data.” There duty would be to link the nationwide samples that already exist from various sources and then “fill in the gaps.”
Some are concerned that the assimilation of all of this data could become an “IT nightmare.”
Obama, on the other hand, is thrilled to introduce this new initiative. At a recent White House event, the president described it as something that could overcome “the accidents and circumstances of our birth.” He went on to say:
If we’re born with a particular disease, or a particular genetic makeup that makes us more vulnerable to something, that’s not our destiny, that’s not our fate. We can remake it. That’s who we are as Americans, and that’s the power of scientific discovery.