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Obama Makes Healthcare More Personal In Million-Person Genome Project

12/08/2016

President Obama announces new partnerships with The National Institutes of Health and genomics labs, such as The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, to gather “a million or more” sets of genetic data and kick-start the era of personalised medicine.

It’s easy to think medical care is already very personal.

You go to the doctor and share your symptoms, have a physical examination, and maybe run a few tests.

If you’re lucky, you receive a diagnosis and set out on the road to recovery – if you’re not, you spend the next couple of weeks running more tests and getting to know your doctor more intimately.

I mean, how much more personal can it really get?

It turns out much, much more personal.

Although going to the clinic and opening up about our problems can be an extremely personal experience for us, the diagnosis and treatment process we go through in response is far from it. It’s essentially the same for everyone – whether it be your kids, a neighbour down the street, or a retired athlete in France.

That’s because the traditional model of healthcare isn’t directly concerned with treating you as an individual, but rather the set of symptoms you’re presented with.

The healthcare system has long followed this one-size-fits-all approach to ensure it meets certain “standards of care” and offers the most efficient courses of treatment for the general population or the average person on the street.

However, advances in technology and our understanding of the human body are driving a new model of healthcare where treatments are tailored to the individual and their unique genetic makeup.

Personalised or precision medicine, according to Barack Obama, writing this month in the Boston Globe, “aims to deliver the right treatments in the right dosage at the right time – every time.”

Doctors and medical experts are already utilising developments in modern medicine and applying them in more effective therapeutic treatments, such as stem cell-based therapies, epigenetic therapies, and organ regeneration.

Personalised medicine also puts more focus on the diagnosis and prevention of disease, yet this is an area in which there’s still a big gap between what we can do and what we are doing. This is largely due to a lack of data, a problem Obama aims to address in a new initiative driven by The National Institutes of Health.

The Personalised Partnership Aiming To Harness Your Genetic Data

“The ensuing breakthroughs could help people live longer, happier, and healthier lives; create new jobs and industries in the United States; and, by improving care, will ultimately make our entire health system work better.” —Barack Obama

Striving to bring together “doctors and data”, The National Institutes of Health is joining forces with some of the world’s most distinguished biomedical and stem cell research centres, such as the Broad Institute – a biomedical and genomic research centre in Cambridge.

In order to build up the necessary data, the NIH plans to team up with regional health care providers and community-based health clinics to collect “a million or more” sets of genetic data from volunteers, with of course privacy and security protection built in.

This would accumulate a highly diverse and valuable set of data which scientists could quantify and analyse in the lab to create a firm grounding for improving preventative medicine and our ability to avert disease, make accurate diagnoses, and even cure the likes of cancer and diabetes.

You can’t get more personal than your own genetic coding, so this move by Obama and the NIH is a huge step forward in accessing the incredible database of information our genes hold, and ultimately putting it to good use in getting better, staying fit, and keeping our children and family healthy.

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