President Barack Obama announced Tuesday in his State of the Union speech an interest in personalized genetic information as a means of helping treat diseases like diabetes and cancer.
Obama called on Congress to support "precision medicine" by boosting funding for research. The president said he wants the United States to be at the forefront of a new era in medicine, much like the time it eliminated polio and mapped out the human genome. This new era, according to Obama, was going to deliver the right kind of treatment for a patient at the right time. He also noted that precision medicine has been proven beneficial in reversing cystic fibrosis in certain patients.
"Tonight, 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," he said.
Sequencing individual genomes allows an individual's complete genetic information to be read out, speeding scientific research and aiding pharmaceutical companies and doctors in coming up with treatment regimen that will be most suitable for patient's particular needs.
Not only will this help boost success rates for treatments but will also aid in saving tens of billions spent on drugs that are not effective.
Francis Collins, National Institutes of Health director, pointed out how precision medicine would work.
"If I got a diagnosis of cancer today, I would want that cancer to be completely sequenced, to see what mutations are there that are driving those cells to grow when they shouldn't, and then to be able to use that information to pick from the current menu of molecularly targeted drugs," he explained.
In England, it was announced last year that a company owned by the country's Department of Health is aiming to sequence 100,000 complete genomes from patients under the care of the National Health Service by 2017.
Obama did not disclose more details about how precision medicine will be carried out so expect information about the initiative to trickle in within the next few days.
Aside from optimizing treatment, the precision medicine initiative might also be used for preventing diseases in the first place. Since doctors will have a patient's full genome information, this will also clue them in on which conditions a patient is predisposed to, letting them make the necessary steps to prevent a certain condition from taking hold or at least keeping its severity to a more manageable minimum.