The Precision Medicine Initiative Receives $200M in Funding for 2016



The Precision Medicine Initiative began its journey with an announcement during President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union Address. The President called for $215 million in the 2016 budget to support precision focused medical advances in research and technology, divided primarily between the NIH and the National Cancer Society. Despite some drama during its ratification, the PMI has an official place in the 2016 budget and as the end of the year approaches we can look at some of its highlights.

The Initiative was created to address many ailments that remain uncured and enrich existing treatments with the focus on enhancing and specializing them for age, lifestyle, genetics and ethnic profiles. Precision medicine is an area of medicine that focuses on developing medical treatments for individuals based on a genetic profile, age, and sometimes geographic differences. The PMI is public policy. It is public funds generating new research approaches that may help determine what 21st Century medical discoveries are possible.

The largest portion of the PMI budget, $130 million, will go to the National Health Institute. The White House website Fact Sheet describes this effort as development:

“of a voluntary national research cohort of a million or more volunteers to propel our understanding of health and disease and set the foundation for a new way of doing research through engaged participants and open, responsible data sharing.”

This cohort will be ordinary people willing to participate in scientific research by volunteering personal and private data to be collected for analysis. As opposed to limited drug trials, with very controlled studies and limited data gathering, this is scientific crowdsourcing. The goal is finding the widest and most diverse group of people to volunteer and contribute their medical information to be studied. The volunteers will be considered partners of the effort and the information they provide will be anonymous, but open to research by any group accessing the data cohort. The beauty of the cohort will be its breadth of data and the goal will be a wealth of discovery.

The National Cancer Institute is a natural partner for the Precision Medicine Initiative. Recent cancer discoveries have shown many of the specific genetic origins of many cancers. The NCI will get the next largest portion of the PMI funding in 2016. Their budget will receive $70 million in the fight against cancer. The role of precision medicine research in the fight against cancer is to find new and better treatments for all types of cancer.

“NCI will accelerate the design and testing of effective, tailored treatments for cancer by expanding genetically based clinical cancer trials, exploring fundamental aspects of cancer biology, and establishing a national ‘cancer knowledge network’ that will generate and share new knowledge to fuel scientific discovery and guide treatment decisions.”

The Precision Medicine Initiative is the cure-for-cancer Manhattan Project of the 21st Century. Its structure reflects recent advances in technology, and the budget reflects the willing investment of the public and the policy investments that follow. There is no dictate, mandate or specific goal, but the publicly created and funded research cohort can accelerate new medical breakthroughs.