Precision Medicine framework outlines project's opportunities

The National Institutes of Health is moving forward with plans to enroll 1 million volunteers for U.S. President Barack Obama's Precision Medicine Initiative.

NIH Director Francis Collins said he would "act immediately" on recommendations from his health advisory committee, which has created a framework for the study, Reuters reports.

The working group identified a number of "high-value scientific opportunities" for research involving these volunteers, including the ability to:

  • Estimate a person's risk of developing a disease by integrating environmental exposures, genetic factors and gene-environment interactions
  • Identify the causes of individual variation in response to commonly used therapeutics (commonly referred to as pharmacogenomics)
  • Discover biological markers that signal increased or decreased risk of developing common diseases
  • Use mobile health (mHealth) technologies to correlate activity, physiological measures and environmental exposures with health outcomes
  • Develop new disease classifications and relationships.

The report also proposes allowing anyone living in the United States to enroll in the study directly or through participating healthcare provider organizations. Participants would volunteer to share core data, including their electronic health records, health survey information and mobile health data, on lifestyle habits and environmental exposures, according to an announcement.

The White House is accepting public comment on the president's initiative through Sept. 21 at 5 p.m. Obama announced the project in his State of the Union address in January, with plans to earmark $215 million for it in the 2016 budget.

But like any politically endorsed scientific or medical initiative, the promise of a medical revolution spurred by precision medicine may belie the long, messy process of tackling such a project, according to Michael White, a systems biologist at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

To learn more:
- read the Reuters story
- find the framework report (.pdf)
- here's the announcement