- The Washington Times - Friday, January 30, 2015

Pledging that the U.S. will lead the next revolution in medicine, President Obama on Friday laid out a key component of his fiscal year 2016 budget — a $215 million government investment into “precision medicine.”

The initiative, which has some level of bipartisan support, aims to develop treatments for individual patients based on their own unique genetic makeup. The money will be funneled to the National Institutes of Health and will fund research into how health-care providers can tailor treatments specifically for each patient.

“We’re here to harness what is most special about America, and that is our spirit of innovation — our ability to dream and take risks and tinker and try new things,” Mr. Obama said at an event in the White House. “What is so exciting is we have the possibility of leading an entirely new era of medicine that makes sure new jobs and new industries and new life-saving treatments for diseases are created right here in the United States. … The time is right to unleash a new wave of advances in this area, in precision medicine.”

The money will fund several research programs examining how people’s genes, environments, lifestyles and other variables factor into the diseases and chronic conditions they contract and the best ways to prevent and treat those medical issues.

The president will formally request the $215 million when he releases his full budget on Monday. The broader budget will increase federal spending by about $74 billion over current caps and ultimately aims to undo the automatic cuts known as sequestration.

The spending increases would be paid for through, among other things, tax hikes on wealthy Americans.

It’s unclear whether the precision medicine initiative will survive budget negotiations with a Republican-controlled Congress, though there are Republicans who back the effort.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, Tennessee Republican and chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, attended Friday’s event.

“We have a real opportunity to work together and get a result so that cutting-edge medicine begins reaching patients more quickly, while still preserving this nation’s gold standard for safety and quality,” he said in a statement.

Specifically, the program would: fund a $130 million program at NIH to set up a 1-million-patient cohort to help establish more “open, responsible” medical research methods; provide $70 million to the National Cancer Institute to research genomic drivers in cancer; and fund other efforts.

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