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Details of US Precision Medicine Initiative to be released

By Shan Juan ( Updated: 2015-09-11 16:04

The exact design plan of the Precision Medicine Initiative will be released on Sept 17 in the US, said Francis S. Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health of the US. The $215 million project will focus on precise cancer treatment and setting up a health/medical data pool involving 1 million or more Americans.

Collins, co-chair of the Summer Davos in Dalian, made his remarks on the sidelines of the event to be concluded Friday. "It's a national effort which is going to teach us important things about health and disease," he said.

The part on cancer treatment, covering at least 3,000 patients with varied cancers, features a combination of drugs instead of the conventional single drug approach to help figure out why some treatments don't work, Collins said.

Analysis based on gene sequencing is also considered while predicting the more effective treatment for the individual, he said. Some 20 pharmaceutical companies have agreed to take part in this.

The other part, as he said, is even more ambitious and would take a little longer to set up.

It will enroll a million or more Americans in a prospective study of all factors involved in health and diseases. It will be a highly diverse group due to population characteristics.

"Those participating individuals will be asked to give consents for access to their electronic health records, and to have their genome sequenced as it becomes affordable," he explained.

By knowing what makes patients unique from the variations in their DNA, a doctor is more likely to understand whether patients are susceptible to certain diseases, detect more targeted prevention, and pinpoint the right treatments, medical experts said.

Over a long run, "that will teach us more effective ways to keep people healthy and save the government a lot in medical bills," Collins said.

Also, it's become more practical as the cost of genomic analysis has come down substantially and sequencing is getting cheaper by the day, he added. "Plus we have electronic medical records."

He also urged for more cooperation, particularly data sharing with China, in precision medicine.

"We are all one part of the family of human beings and we have to do it together if we want to know important things about human health," he said.

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