Obama’s Budget To Include $215M To Help Create Genomic Database

January 30, 2015 in News

On Friday, President Obama announced plans to ask Congress for $215 million in funding in his fiscal year 2016 budget proposal for a personalized medicine initiative that centers around the creation of a massive database containing the genetic data of at least one million volunteer participants, the Washington Post reports.  

Initiative Details

The White House said, “The Precision Medicine Initiative will leverage advances in genomics, emerging methods for managing and analyzing large data sets while protecting privacy, and health information technology to accelerate biomedical discoveries” (Jackson, USA Today, 1/30).

Of the $215 million in funding:

  • $131 million would go toward NIH to recruit at least one million volunteers and analyze their full genetic makeups, as well as expand clinical trials for possible cancer medications (Baker, National Journal, 1/30);
  • $70 million would go toward NIH’s National Cancer Institute to further study genetic causes of cancers and use study findings to assist with drug development;
  • $10 million would go toward FDA to develop databases to help the agency create the regulatory structure for evaluating precision medicine advances (Clarke/Begley, Reuters, 1/30); and
  • $5 million would go toward the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT to help develop interoperability standards and policies to address privacy issues and help with secure data exchange across various systems (White House fact sheet, 1/30).

Jo Handelsman, associate director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said the project also aims to connect “existing cohorts around the country that have already been started and have rick sources of data” and fill in the gaps. The data could include patients’:

  • Diet and wellness information;
  • Lab test results;
  • Medical records; and
  • Genetic profiles (Pear, New York Times, 1/30).

NIH Director Francis Collins on Thursday said the short-term goal of the initiative would be to develop additional and improved cancer treatments. He attributed the initial focus on cancer to researchers already making strides in the area and because of the lethal nature of the disease. Collins said that in the long-term, the initiative would apply the lessons learned to develop personalized treatments for other diseases (Reuters, 1/30).

He noted that the project is made feasible because the cost of genetic research and storing large amounts of data has fallen and the growing use of electronic health records and mobile technologies are making it easier to share data (Washington Post, 1/30).


House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said the initiative “is a natural fit in the discussion about how to accelerate and improve the discovery, development and delivery of new cures and treatments. This is something we’ve been talking about for the past year.” He added that GOP members of the House hope “to get a bill to the president’s desk by the end of this year,” which he said would also include some of Republicans’ ideas, such as accelerating FDA approvals of new medical devices and drugs (Burton et al., Wall Street Journal, 1/30).

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