Two Columbia University Medical Center faculty members were present today when President Obama provided details of the precision medicine initiative he announced during this year’s State of the Union address.
“I think that the White House, by taking this initiative, brings the attention to the public in a way that no individual or institution could do,” says Tom Maniatis, PhD, director of Columbia’s university-wide precision medicine initiative and chair of the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics. “It indicates the importance of this activity and articulates the vision for how precision medicine can ultimately impact health care. In order to be able to collect enough data to begin to interrogate genomes of individuals with specific diseases, a very large number of genomes will have to be sequenced.”
Dr. Maniatis and Wendy Chung, MD, PhD, associate professor of pediatrics in medicine, were invited to the White House to participate in the announcement. Dr. Chung directs the clinical genetics program at Columbia and conducts research on a wide range of human genetic disorders.
The Obama administration described the precision medicine initiative as a bold new research effort to revolutionize the way we improve health and treat disease. Launched with a $215 million investment in the president’s 2016 budget, the initiative “will pioneer a new model of patient-powered research that promises to accelerate biomedical discoveries and provide clinicians with new tools, knowledge, and therapies to select which treatments will work best for which patients,” according to a White House fact sheet on the effort.
Columbia University’s precision medicine initiative was announced by CU President Lee Bollinger in early 2014. A task force is at work to develop a roadmap for the initiative.
“Precision medicine is an integrated complex scientific activity based on the most modern technology in both instrumentation and computers directed toward understanding the connection between a person’s genetics and the pathology in order to connect those two,” says Dr. Maniatis.