Federal Funding Boosts Precision Medicine Development

An award of $55 million will help launch different infrastructure needed to improve precision medicine.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently announced awards totaling $55 million from US President Barack Obama in support of his Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI).

The PMI is a cohort research program with the goal of engaging 1 million or more US participants to improve more individually-based treatments. The awards will go towards a Data and Research Support Center, Participant Technologies Center, and Healthcare Provider Organizations (HPO), according to a press release from the NIH.

Participants who enroll in the program will provide health, environment, and lifestyle information. They will also provide blood and urine tests to determine genomic and biological information. Participants will also be required to share their electronic health records and use mobile health devices and apps to share additional data, according to the release.

“This range of information at the scale of 1 million people from all walks of life will be an unprecedented resource for researchers working to understand all of the factors that influence health and disease,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD. “Over time, data provided by participants will help us answer important health questions, such as why some people with elevated genetic and environmental risk factors for disease still manage to maintain good health, and how people suffering from a chronic illness can maintain the highest possible quality of life. The more we understand about individual differences, the better able we will be to effectively prevent and treat illness.”

The PMI Cohort Program will create more precision medicine techniques for diseases other than cancers. The program is also expected to increase the likelihood of maintaining health.

“As someone who has personally benefited from precision medicine, I am excited for this study to intersect with other fundamental changes in medicine and research to empower people to live healthier lives,” said PMI Cohort Program Director Eric Dishman. “What potential participants need to know is that we are equally interested in learning how we can prevent illness in the first place, but when we do get ill, which treatment options are going to work best for each of us individually.”

With these awards and the addition of essential parts of the program, it is on track to be launched later this year.

“This is an incredibly complex study requiring new kinds of strategic and operational partnerships — this can’t be business as usual,” concluded Kathy L. Hudson, PhD, NIH deputy director for science, outreach, and policy who helped orchestrate the PMI Cohort Program. “We are excited to break new ground in engaging people in research and building a study of this scale and scope.”