Here are the useful tidbits from Obama’s live precision medicine announcement

President Obama put the case for precision medicine in quite the eloquent manner. “The accidents of our birth should not determine our fate, or our destiny,” he said at today’s live-streamed briefing on the new, $215 million initiative that will help physicians ultimately tailor therapies. The biggest portion of the initiative will go toward building a database […]

President Obama put the case for precision medicine in quite the eloquent manner.

“The accidents of our birth should not determine our fate, or our destiny,” he said at today’s live-streamed briefing on the new, $215 million initiative that will help physicians ultimately tailor therapies. The biggest portion of the initiative will go toward building a database filled with the genetic and medical record information from more than 1 million Americans.

Obama will allocate that sum into the following budget cycle; it’s a matter of whether Congress will approve the precision medicine program. However, in today’s talk he said “the moment’s right” for precision medicine because “there’s bipartisan support.”

The presser was, like many big White House kick offs, orchestrated to appeal to policy wonks and the heart-strings.

The President was introduced by 19-year-old Harvard student Elana Simon who, as a teenager, discovered the genetic underpinnings of her own rare cancer.

“Let me just be clear: When I was 19, I was not doing genetic testing,” Obama said with a laugh, adding that she taught him some genomic basics by building DNA strands out of pink swim noodles.

The room was awash with major names in the health care arena: NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins, Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy and Harold Vermas of the National Cancer Institute. But storied basketball player Kareem Abdul Jabbar, who’s in remission from chronic myeloid leukemia, was also there. Jabbar became a spokesman for Novartis after the drug, Gleevac, helped him conquer the cancer.

Notably, when referring to rapidly decreasing rate of gene sequencing costs, Obama said it’s now “less than $2,000,” instead of proclaiming – as so many in the biotech arena like to do – that we’ve arrived squarely at a $1,000 genome. However, he cited a study that every dollar spent on mapping human genome has already returned $140 to the economy, he said.

Obama reiterated that the path forward is fivefold:

  1. Work with the National Cancer Institute to find more of the genetic factors behind cancer.
  2. Work with the FDA to find new approaches to evaluate next-generation tests. “The way we approve sequencing technology is different from approving, say, a pacemaker,” Obama said. “We need to make sure our approach reflects the difference in technology.”
  3. Work with the NIH to create that 1 million-strong group of American volunteers. This will help doctors see the “connections and patterns and correlations” that wind up causing disease.
  4. Make sure protecting patient privacy is built into the program at day one. Patient advocacy groups will be asked to help design this program from the ground up, Obama said.
  5. Work with entrepreneurs and nonprofits “help create tools to help patients get involved.”

The cool thing about sequencing, Obama said, was that “it’ll help us get information about our own particular quirks.”

Indeed.