(Bloomberg) — President Barack Obama will urge Congress to spend U.S. taxpayers’ money for research in “precision medicine,” a burgeoning field of care in which treatments are tailored to an individual patient.
“I want the country that eliminated polio and mapped the human genome to lead a new era of medicine—one that delivers the right treatment at the right time,” Obama said in his State of the Union address. “I’m launching a new Precision Medicine Initiative to bring us closer to curing diseases like cancer and diabetes—and to give all of us access to the personalized information we need to keep ourselves and our families healthier.”
Obama did not provide details on what the initiative would entail and how much it would cost. He’s expected to detail the program in his fiscal 2016 budget, to be released Feb. 2.
The Obama administration views medical research as an area of health-care policy the Republican-led Congress may be willing to help advance, even as it fights the president over the continued implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), his signature legislative accomplishment. Obama’s health secretary, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, foreshadowed the precision medicine proposal in a speech last week that was conciliatory toward Republicans.
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“The promise precision medicine has is that it gives us the ability to develop medical treatments that are highly tailored to the individual characteristics of patients,” she said in the Jan. 15 speech at the New America Foundation, an advocacy group in Washington. “I hope we can work with the Congress to scale up the initial successes we have seen in this promising avenue of scientific endeavor.”
Precision medicine relies on tests such as genetic sequencing to identify patients who will respond to drugs such as Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc.’s Kalydeco for cystic fibrosis. Advances in such therapies have been helped by the dramatic drop off in costs for sequencing.
Since the whole human genome was first deciphered in 2003 by the National Institutes of Health and J. Craig Venter’s Celera Genomics, the cost of sequencing an entire genome has fallen rapidly to a few thousand dollars per patient, making it a viable tool for drugmakers to employ in research.
The White House hinted at Obama’s proposal in announcing yesterday that Michelle Obama’s guests at the State of the Union address will include a cystic fibrosis patient, Bill Elder, who has been successfully treated with Kalydeco, which targets mutations in a gene underlying the disease.
“His story is a testament to the promise of precision medicine, an emerging approach to treatment that takes into account patients’ individual characteristics, and a kind of research the president hopes to expand,” the White House said in a blog post.
More than 1,800 genetic links to disease have been identified since the Human Genome Project, according to the NIH, and there are more than 2,000 genetic tests for disease conditions.