President Obama has officially announced a new biomedical research project that will use the power of big data to help with the development of specialized drugs to treat diseases like cancer and diabetes.
Referring to the initiative as “precision medicine,” Obama described it as “one of the greatest opportunities for new medical breakthroughs that we have ever seen.”
The program will bring together a group of 1 million U.S. volunteers willing to provide anonymized genetic data.
Speaking of the new project at a health-focused White House event, Obama said, “What if matching a cancer cure to our genetic code was just as easy [as matching blood to a blood type]? That’s the promise of precision medicine: delivering the right treatments at the right time, every time, to the right person.”
He noted how a growing, unprecedented set of high-quality, varied genetic data would allow “us to map out not only the genome of one person, but [also] to see connections, patterns, and correlations that helps us refine exactly what it is that we’re trying to do with respect to treatment.”
With respect to privacy (an area Obama’s government has recently been outspoken about in terms of the practices of Silicon Valley tech companies), he described how advocates were going to be involved with the precision medicine initiative “from the ground up.”
Obama also talked about the importance of entrepreneurs and nonprofit organizations in building the tools to help research proceed.
“We want every American ultimately to be able to securely access and analyze their own health data–so that they can make the best decisions for themselves and for their families,” he said.
Full details of the budget request are set to be unveiled on Monday, but will add up to around $215 million. This will include $130 million for the health care consortium, $70 million for the National Cancer Institute, $10 million for the Food and Drug Administration, and $5 million for health technology enabling researchers to exchange data safely while protecting privacy.