Precision Medicine Initiative to Aid in Choosing Most Effective Treatments

One of President Obama’s Administration’s early focuses for 2015 is on medical research and more specific ways to treat disease. The $215 million Precision Medicine Initiative proposal unites the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Office of National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) as well as the NIH’s National Cancer Institute (NCI). Precision medicine has led to advancements in tailoring specific treatments to a patient’s individual qualities to better improve efficacy, and the initiative hopes to expand these efforts by incorporating additional patient information into ongoing research.

Precision Medicine

Traditional medical treatments are designed to be most effective to the majority, so success rates will vary according to additional variables. Precision medicine takes into account a patient’s unique qualities, including genetic variations, specific environment, and overall lifestyle. Although costs of genome sequencing have been tremendously reduced, there is some concern that the costs of research and targeted drugs far outweigh the potential savings of quickly choosing the most effective treatment and that the financial demands are unsustainable.

Cancer Breakthroughs

Precision medicine has already made breakthroughs in determining specific kinds of cancers and tumors due to genetic mapping. Molecular testing is routine with melanoma and leukemia, as well as breast, lung, and colorectal cancers. This information allows clinicians to choose more targeted treatments that have a greater risk of targeting the disease, increasing chances of survival and reducing side and late effects. NCI hopes to fast-track the development of specific cancer treatments by increasing clinical trials based on genetic markers and sharing new information.

Research Cohort

The centerpiece of the initiative is a national database of one million or more Americans who voluntarily provide information regarding their health. Among other things, NIH seeks to record medical records, genetic profiles, environmental and lifestyle data, and microorganisms. A large amount of this type of data is necessary to fuel scientific discovery and treatment development. The patient-focused initiative seeks to allow patients to view and discuss their own data with healthcare providers.


The information in the cohort will be accessible to researchers from multiple disciplines. The agencies have addressed privacy concerns, stating that legal and technical experts from many fields will be consulted to develop a plan for upholding privacy and security of research data. Under the proposal, ONC will be allocated $5 million to develop interoperability standards and requirements to ensure privacy and facilitate a secure exchange of data.