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Obama Wants $215M for 'Precision Medicine' Plan to Focus on Cancer Research

Initiative aims to bolster a field of medicine that tailors treatments based on the unique factors of individual patients and individual diseases.

President Obama will ask Congress for $215 million to help advance medical research focused on the genetics of individual patients, the White House said.

Obama first mentioned the "Precision Medicine Initiative" during his State of the Union address, and will lay out additional details Friday. Broadly, the initiative aims to bolster a rapidly growing field of medicine that tailors treatments based on the unique factors of individual patients and individual diseases, including their genetics.

The vast majority of the proposed funding would go to the National Institutes of Health: $131 million, plus another $70 million for the National Cancer Institute, which is part of NIH.

Many of the biggest advances in precision medicine, also known as personalized medicine, have come in the field of cancer treatment, and cancer would be a major focus for Obama's new initiative as well. NIH Director Francis Collins told reporters Thursday that the initiative's earliest results would likely be in cancer research, while expanding those lessons to other diseases would take longer.

The additional funding would allow NIH to develop a nationwide pool of 1 million volunteers, who would allow researchers to study their genetics, their environments, and other data to better understand the causes and development of diseases. NIH would also use the money to expand clinical trials for potential cancer drugs.

"We're just beginning to glimpse the power of precision medicine," said Jo Handelsman, associate director for science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The Food and Drug Administration would get $10 million under Obama's request to develop better regulatory tools. Precision therapies are tailored to small groups of patients, but the drug-approval process is still set up mainly to test drugs in large populations, determining whether they'll work for the average person.

Another $5 million would support better information technology, as well as the development of privacy standards for genetic information.

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