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NIH director details precision medicine plan
BY 2015-09-21 07:49:05

The director of the US National Institutes for Health said that someday he would like to see the United States and China cooperate on precision medicine.

A week before the release Thursday of President Barack Obama's Precision Medicine Initiative, Francis S. Collins spoke to China Daily at Summer Davos in Dalian.

The $215 million project will be focused on precise cancer treatment and setting up a health data pool involving 1 million or more Americans.

Collins, co-chairman of Summer Davos, on Sept 11 described the plan to China Daily as a "a national effort which is going to teach us important things about health and disease".

The cancer treatment, covering at least 3,000 patients with various forms of cancer, will feature a combination of drugs instead of the conventional, single-drug approach to help determine why some treatments do not work.

Analysis based on gene sequencing will also be considered while predicting the more effective treatment for the individual, Collins said. Some 20 pharmaceutical companies have agreed to participate.

"I'd like cooperation with China in precision medicine," Collins said. "But I understand that there are some issues about the ability of the projects of the sort to be able to share the data. I don't completely understand what those limits are. Obviously, if they are very severe, it will be very difficult to have a collaboration," he said.

"To bring these data sets together is the only way to make the collaboration work and make the whole greater than the sum of the parts," he said. "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."

The other part of the US initiative is "even more ambitious", Collins said, and would take longer to set up. It will enroll a million or more Americans in a prospective study of all factors involved in health and diseases, and it will be highly diverse group.

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

The study also will draw from information gathered from digital devices, such as smartphones, and fitness trackers such as Fitbit and Jawbone, which would provide data on lifestyle habits and environmental exposure, Reuters reported.

Collins said that the recruitment would open in one year, citing the amount of preparation necessary.

Currently, institutions such as the healthcare delivery company Kaiser and the Mayo Clinic hold such cohorts involving 11 million Americans, according to Collins.

"Given that the existing cohorts focused on varied specific diseases, not all of the people will be appropriate to bring into this coming one, which is supposed to be focused on everything (about health and diseases)," he said.

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

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

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

(Editor:Grace) (From:China Daily)
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