By Lori Solomon, Editor, Diagnostic Testing & Emerging Technologies
President Barack Obama announced a new precision medicine initiative this week in his State of the Union Address. Also known as personalized medicine, expanding the government’s focus on precision medicine, whether through additional investment or priority funding status, will have direct positive impact on the diagnostics industry by potentially broadening research and development efforts to identify new diagnostic markers and to expand use of emerging testing technologies, including sequencers.
“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,” said Obama. “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.”
While details remain unknown at this time, experts are speculating that the initiative could make personalized medicine-related research a funding priority and could bolster the budget of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to facilitate related research efforts. The President’s budget proposal (expected Feb. 2) should provide additional detail of the scope of the initiative. It is reported that NIH director Francis Collins, M.D., cited “lackluster” medical and drug research funding as a cause for major concern during the JP Morgan Healthcare conference (San Francisco; Jan. 12-15).
In addition to solidifying the United States’ future position as a leader in genomics, Obama highlighted the individual impact of precision medicine by introducing Bill Elder, who had been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at age eight, but is now a 27-year old medical student thanks to successful treatment with Kalydeco, a drug that only works in only 4 percent of cystic fibrosis patients, with a hefty price tag of $300,000 a year per patient.
By identifying who is most likely to benefit from a particular drug, precision medicine holds the promise of both improving care and cutting costs by eliminating trial and error prescription of expensive drugs in those unlikely to benefit. To usher in the era of precision medicine, the White House says that advances, not just in genomics, but also in health information technology will be necessary.