Topol on the Clinical and Research Implications of Obama's Precision Medicine Initiative


January 30, 2015

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During the State of the Union address, President Obama talked about the Precision Medicine Initiative. The New England Journal of Medicine offered its take on the initiative in an editorial published January 30.

The details of his initiative weren't disclosed except for the concept that we want to get the right treatment to the right patient, and we want to get all of the information to individuals and their families so they can maintain their health at the highest level. As it turns out, this initiative is being worked on with the National Institutes of Health, and it's really quite exciting.

We are talking about a million individuals in the United States having their DNA sequenced. Not only would their DNA be sequenced, but these individuals would also use their mobile devices with wearable sensors to track a variety of critical physiologic measurements—even environmental effects.

We are talking not only about having the germline native DNA sequenced, but subsets of these individuals also would have the microbiome of the gut—or the proteins and metabolites—sequenced and the epigenome mapped. This is going to be an amalgamation of an enormously valuable information resource going forward.

Until now, only a limited number of people have had their whole genome sequenced. Several projects around the globe are engaged, but none to date are so comprehensive. It is great to see the United States taking on such a significant role. Over the years this should turn out to be very helpful, not just for research but for clinical purposes as well.