The Precision Medicine Initiative, a New Model of Patient Powered Research

May 25th, 2016 - By Kevin V. Nguyen

We’ve covered industry-driven innovations in healthcare such as HL7 FHIR and the NPI, all promising steps towards a comprehensive health infrastructure. However, one of the most exciting pieces of news comes from the White House in the form of the Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI). The PMI is a $215 million investment in the Fiscal Year Budget, to pioneer “a new model of patient-powered research that promises to accelerate biomedical discoveries and provide clinicians with new tools, knowledge, and therapies to select which treatments will work best for which patients.” The goal is to establish a method to improve health outcomes and better treat diseases. The budget is split up into different avenues that will affect the way healthcare is managed. Here we break down the PMI into manageable parts.

What is Precision Medicine?

Before we go over what the PMI does, we must first define Precision Medicine. It’s a way to treat patients with an increased focus on accuracy. Most methods of treatment nowadays are designed for the “average patient”, or a general method of treating patients based on what has worked for others in similar situations. While this may be effective for some patients, others who do not fit the bill suffer. Precision Medicine takes into account the various specific factors that affect a patient: genes, environmental factors, lifestyle, etc. It creates a profile that gives providers a more accurate way of assessing and treating patients, furthermore, developing scientific knowledge and medical research in healthcare.

Precision Medicine has already led to innovations in treatments tailored to the patient. Providers can already look at a person’s genetic profile and look for an effective way to treat a tumor. Patients with cancer undergo molecular testing as part of patient care, which enables providers to promote patient health while reducing risk.

Where it’s Going, the Precision Medicine Initiative’s Key Investments

The PMI’s budget is split up into different government health organizations aimed at specific goals. However, the main goal is to promote Precision Medicine as a viable way to treat patients. The breakdown is as follows:

  • $130 million to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for the 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.
  • $70 million to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of NIH, to scale up efforts to identify genomic drivers in cancer and apply that knowledge in the development of more effective approaches to cancer treatment.
  • $10 million to the FDA to acquire additional expertise and advance the development of high quality, curated databases to support the regulatory structure needed to advance innovation in precision medicine and protect public health.
  • $5 million to ONC to support the development of interoperability standards and requirements that address privacy and enable the secure exchange of data across systems.

The Overall Goals of the PMI

The overall goal of the PMI is a spur on the creation of new ways for more precise treatments. This comes in the form of concerted initiatives by different organizations in health care such as the NCI. The NCI has been given money to find new ways of treating cancer by “expanding genetically based clinical cancer trials, exploring fundamental aspects of cancer biology, and establishing a national ‘cancer knowledge network’”. The National Cancer Institute has its own page on the PMI.

But perhaps the most ambitious objective is the funding to the National Institutes of Health. Over half the PMI budget is given to the development of a national, patient-powered research cohort of one million or more Americans who volunteer to participate in research. This gives people the opportunity to contribute their data from a multitude of sources, such as medical records, metabolites, and microorganisms.

The PMI promises to “to enable a new era of medicine through research, technology, and policies that empower patients, researchers, and providers to work together toward the development of individualized care.” We’ll keep tabs on the PMI and track its progress in the following months.

Read the White House brief on the PMI, and the press release.


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