FDA launches precisionFDA, a platform for collaboration to increase DNA data

The FDA is embracing precision medicine with its new platform designed to allow scientists to share next-generation sequencing data.

Today the FDA announced the official launch of precisionFDA, an online, cloud-based platform that will serve as a hub for scientists to work together in further developing the method of reading DNA, or next-generation sequencing (NGS). It’s one of the latest developments of the White House’s Precision Medicine Initiative.

The project, which was unveiled as “closed beta” in November, is designed to provide an increasing amount of data based on genomic tests that will make it easier for healthcare professionals to identify individual people’s risk of disease, possible response to treatment and assess their current state of health.

The FDA has had a clear focus on precision medicine and acknowledges the undeniable value it has in diagnostics and disease treatment. “At FDA, we’re thinking very seriously about genomics,” David Litwack, a staffer in the FDA’s precision medicine unit, said during a presentation at Mayo Clinic’s Individualizing Medicine conference in September. “Genetic tests and in vitro diagnostics are driving a lot of the advancements in medical science today.”

The FDA Voice blog described how the new platform will be used:

precisionFDA users will have access to a number of important tools to help them do this. These tools include reference genomes, such as “Genome in the Bottle,” a reference sample of DNA for validating human genome sequences developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Users will also be able to compare their results to previously validated reference results as well as share their results with other users, track changes and obtain feedback.

A genomics revolution has its hurdles, like improving interoperability, upping patient engagement and rethinking privacy, but this platform is a good indication of progress. The FDA will be placing the code for the precisionFDA portal on GitHub in an attempt to allow the community to further enhance the platform’s features.

Photo: Flickr user Micah Baldwin