U.S. to Develop DNA Study of One Million People

Posted: January 30, 2015 at 9:48 pm

An Obama initiative seeks to channel a torrent of gene information into treatments for cancer, other diseases.

President Barack Obama is proposing to spend $215 million on a precision medicine initiative the centerpiece of which will be a national study involving the health records and DNA of one million volunteers, administration officials said yesterday.

Precision medicine refers to treatments tailored to a persons genetic profile, an idea already transforming how doctors fight cancer and some rare diseases.

The Obama plan, including support for studies of cancer and rare disease, is part of a shift away from one-size-fits-all medicine, Jo Handelsman, associate director for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said in a briefing yesterday. She called precision medicine a game changer that holds the potential to revolutionize how we approach health in this country and around the world.

The White House said the largest part of the money, $130 million, would go to the National Institutes of Health in order to create a population-scale study of how peoples genes, environment, and lifestyle affect their health.

According to Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, the study will recruit new volunteers as well as merging data from several large studies already under way. Details still need to be sorted out, said Collins, but the study could eventually involve completely decoding the genomes of hundreds of thousands of people.

Officials indicated that patients might have more access to data generated about them than is usually the case in research studies. That is partly because scientists will need the ability to re-contact them, should their genes prove interesting.

We arent just talking about research but also about patients access to their own data, so they can participate fully in decisions about their health that affect them, said John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The Obama initiative, which the president first announced during his State of the Union address, also allocates $70 million for DNA-driven research on cancer and another $10 million for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has struggled to regulate genome tests.

Collins said the U.S. is not seeking to create a single bio-bank. Instead, the project would look to combine data from among what he called more than 200 large American health studies that are ongoing and together involve at least two million people. Fortunately, we dont have to start from scratch, he said. The challenge of this initiative is to link those together. Its more a distributed approach than centralized.

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U.S. to Develop DNA Study of One Million People

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