Obama to unveil new effort to fight disease

The White House is poised to announce a new federal research effort intended to expand and improve treatments for disease that are tailored to the genetics of individual patients.

President Obama is set to include $215 million for the new effort in his budget, scheduled to be released on Monday. He will formally announce the Precision Medicine Initiative at a White House event on Friday morning.

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White House officials called the program a potential "game-changer" for medical care in the U.S. that will help healthcare providers choose more effective treatments.

"Throughout history most medical treatments were designed for the average patient, meaning they can be very successful for some but not for others," said Dr. Jo Handelsman, associate director at the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

"Precision medicine is about moving beyond this one-size-fits-all approach. ... It holds the promise of revolutionizing how we approach health in this country."

Obama indicated his interest in individually tailored medical treatment in his Jan. 20 State of the Union address, remarking that the United States should lead "a new era of medicine, one that delivers the right treatment at the right time."

Some illnesses are already treated using genetic and other analyses. Patients suffering from breast, lung or colorectal cancers routinely undergo molecular testing as part of their care. The Precision Medicine Initiative aims to expand this kind of treatment.

Administration officials provided background information on the effort during a call with reporters Thursday.

The bulk of the initiative's funding — $130 million — will be earmarked for developing a cohort of one million or more research subjects to help scientists conduct long-term disease studies. This effort will be undertaken by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Another $70 million will go to the NIH's National Cancer Center to increase research into the genetic drivers of cancer.

The rest of the funding will be split between the Food and Drug Administration and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology for projects intended to improve rapid DNA sequencing technology and guarantee patient privacy.

NIH Director Francis Collins said the effort's focus on cancer will be "short-term."

"We want to generate knowledge that can be translated to a host of diseases," Collins said.

Friday's event will include patients, researchers, clinicians and government officials.