The Broad Institute Joins National Effort to Improve Precision Medicine

Obama announced the partnership in an op-ed published in the Boston Globe.

Broad Institute

Photo by Len Rubenstein/Provided

President Obama pledged his commitment to advancing precision medicine—and detailed a far-reaching research initiative—in an op-ed published in the Boston Globe Thursday.

The National Institutes of Health, he wrote, will partner with organizations around the country—including the Broad Institute in Cambridge—to collect and study huge swaths of data from a million patients, hopefully using those insights to further precision medicine and move toward cures for chronic diseases. The project is part of Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI), and is expected to launch later this year.

“Our health care should be customized for us,” Obama wrote. “The powerful and exciting field of precision medicine goes a step further and asks: What if we could…match a cancer cure to a patient’s unique genetic code? Instead of trying a one-size-fits-all treatment, what if medical experts could tailor one specifically for everyone’s body?”

The Broad Institute, along with Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Verily Life Sciences, will create the PMI’s Data and Research Support Center, a system for collecting, storing, organizing, and analyzing the huge amount of data involved in the project.

“At Broad we are thrilled to have the opportunity to develop a data infrastructure that will assemble, curate, store, and make openly available the data necessary to drive a new era of discovery in biomedicine,” Broad’s project lead Sekar Kathiresan said in a statement.

That’s no small task, since the study is the largest ever devoted to precision medicine.

“This range of information at the scale of 1 million people from all walks of life will be an unprecedented resource for researchers working to understand all of the factors that influence health and disease,” NIH Director Francis Collins said in a statement. “The more we understand about individual differences, the better able we will be to effectively prevent and treat illness.”

The NIH has so far given out $197 million in PMI grants. Among them was a $142 million award to the Mayo Clinic, for building a research specimen biobank.