July 10, 2015

Precision Medicine Initiative: Planning Underway But No Funding

By Jeff Briggs
President Obama_1

President Barack Obama introducing the Precision Medicine Initiative

Funding for biomedical research and precision medicine has been much on our minds in recent weeks. Last week, we posted a blog on Susan Jaffe’s excellent story in The Lancet about the attempts to fund the 21st Century Cures Act. This week we again turn to Ms. Jaffe, The Lancet’s Washington correspondent, for her story on the Precision Medicine Initiative.

President Barack Obama unveiled the Precision Medicine Initiative in his annual State of the Union address in January. His goal with the initiative was to radically change the medical treatment patients receive in the U.S.

“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,” the President said.

Dr. Robert Diasio

Dr. Robert Diasio

Precision medicine is already having an impact in cancer treatment, said Robert Diasio, M.D., director of the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center in Rochester, Minn. “In the past, it was completely trial and error…there was no logic, no science,” to determine whether a drug is going to work in a specific patient, he told The Lancet, after speaking to reporters attending a program on precision medicine in May sponsored by the Mayo Clinic and the National Press Foundation. “With the genomic revolution, we have a basis for why we use a drug.”

Dr. Alex Parker

Dr. Alexander Parker

In addition to using genomic sequencing for help physicians find the best cancer treatment, it can also be used to find treatments for patients with difficult to diagnose diseases. And it can protect patients from genetically based adverse drug reactions, said Alexander Parker, Ph.D., associate director at the Mayo Clinic for Individualized Medicine. Genetic interactions can range from making a drug ineffective to turning it into a potentially deadly poison, he said.

The process to bring a new prescription drug to the patient, however, is hugely expensive and incredibly slow. According to the Tuft's Center for the Study of Drug Development, the average cost of bringing a new drug from lab to market now tops $2.5 billion and takes more than 10 years.

That’s one drug. It’s the reason why most drugs are developed for large groups of people.

Precision medicine, however, is focused more on finding the right drug or the right treatment for each individual patient. To do that, funding is crucial to the process of bringing solutions to physicians to treat patients.

But the lead paragraph in Ms. Jaffe’s new story begins: “Officials expect to launch the US President's new health project later this year. But Congress has yet to decide whether to fully fund it. The Lancet's Washington correspondent, Susan Jaffe, reports.”

It’s time to approve the funding and time to bring precision medicine to the patients who need it.

Here is a link to Ms. Jaffe’s story in its entirety: Planning for US Precision Medicine Initiative underway

Susan Jaffe received a Precision Medicine fellowship from the National Press Club, held at and funded by the Mayo Clinic.

Tags: Biomedical research, center for individualized medicine, Dr. Alexander Parker, Dr. Robert Diasio, individualized medicine, National Press Foundation, Precision Medicine, Precision Medicine Initiative, President Barack Obama, Uncategorized

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