NIH Commits $72 Million for Precision Medicine Initiative

Troy Brown, RN

November 19, 2015

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has committed up to $72 million in preliminary funding opportunities for the Precision Medicine Initiative in fiscal 2016. The money will go to projects designed to build the framework for the initiative's planned large-scale national research cohort. The NIH has committed another $15.8 million in funding for the Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative.

The availability of those funds hinges on Congress passing a federal budget before temporary funding expires on December 11. Both initiatives will be suspended if a budget agreement is not reached, NIH Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, cautioned a Congressional subcommittee in October.

The Precision Medicine Initiative

President Obama announced his plan for the initiative at his State of the Union speech on January 20, 2015. The NIH has been instructed to develop a voluntary national research cohort of at least 1 million individuals and to collect genetic sequencing data from participants to identify genomic factors involved in cancer, improve the evaluation and marketing of next-generation sequencing-based tests, and create processes for managing and analyzing large sets of patient data while safeguarding individual privacy.

The $72 million will be used to establish as many as 10 centers that will oversee essential aspects of the initiative.

The NIH will use $21 million to establish a coordinating center that will manage communications among participating organizations, handle direct volunteer activities, and oversee the collection and use of scientific data gathered by the cohort program.

The NIH plans to use $28 million to support as many as seven healthcare provider organization enrolment centers that will recruit and enroll volunteers, facilitate study participation, gather data and obtain biospecimens, and assist researchers with using the program's resources. The enrollment centers will also ensure that the cohort represents the wide diversity of the US population.

The NIH has set aside $8 million to set up a cohort participant technologies center to oversee the use of mobile telephones and sensor technologies in the cohort program.

Another $15 million will be used to develop a biobank for the cohort program. The biobank's responsibilities will be include storing, shipping, and receiving biospecimens, as well as protecting the confidentiality of participants and providing security and backup systems.

"These projects will build a solid infrastructure for the...cohort program," Dr Collins said in a statement. "When a fiscal year 2016 budget is enacted, we can hit the ground running to stand up this bold initiative."

The BRAIN Initiative

The BRAIN Initiative was developed in 2013 to hasten the development of new imaging and mapping technologies for studying the brain. It seeks to improve the treatment of brain disorders including Alzheimer's, schizophrenia, autism, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury.

The NIH will use $8 million to establish eight to 10 research grants. The grants will support the development and validation of novel tools for analyzing neural cells and circuits and the study of the roles that neural circuitry and structures play in complex behaviors.

Another $4 million will be allocated for six to eight projects intended to further the BRAIN Initiative's objective of producing a "dynamic picture of the functioning brain by developing and applying improved methods for large-scale monitoring of neural activity," according to the NIH statement.

The NIH will also contribute $3.8 million for five to seven projects aimed at refining emerging technologies and methods that have already shown potential.

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