President Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative: Healthcare holds its breath

The mention was a lot like the president’s entire State of the Union address: short on specifics but heavy on hope. President Obama announced in his Tuesday State of the Union speech that he would launch a “Precision Medicine Initiative.” I want the country that eliminated polio and mapped the human genome to lead a […]

The mention was a lot like the president’s entire State of the Union address: short on specifics but heavy on hope.

President Obama announced in his Tuesday State of the Union speech that he would launch a “Precision Medicine Initiative.”

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. 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.

The mention couldn’t have been better timed for the biotech industry – fresh of an incredibly enthusiastic JP Morgan Healthcare Conference due in large part to multiple successes personalized medicine and genomics-driven projects.

Next come the details. There was no elaboration by the White House beyond the creation of the initiative. Also, there was no reference to the initiative in the GOP response to the State of the Union.

Dr. Richard Weinshilboum, acting director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine, stated immediately after the announcement: “We eagerly await more details of the initiative and look forward to contributing however we can.”

There are a handful of potential ways Obama’s plan could help new precision medicine, or personalized medicine, initiatives. The National Journal pointed out that the House Energy and Commerce Committee is trying to figure out a better way to test and approve new drugs.

Ahead of Tuesday’s speech, Upton praised the cooperation he has received from top Health and Human Services officials, including Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell.

Upton’s and Obama’s initiatives aren’t the same—Upton’s is about the regulation of new drugs, while the president’s is about their development. But, of course, those two things go hand in hand

The Washington Post produced a familiar statistic – but one that drives home how huge the impact could be of an effective, serious initiative around precision medicine: “Of the 41 new drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration last year, nearly half were aimed at rare diseases that affect 200,000 or fewer Americans.”

NBC guessed the initiative could mean additional funding to the National Institutes of Health.

But, for now, precision medicine advocates wait a more personalized response.