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May 26, 2017

Amid Budget Concerns, NIH Preps Beta Test for Precision Medicine Plan

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Xconomy National – An ambitious plan to recruit 1 million U.S. volunteers and amass a treasure trove of their health information will start next week with a “beta test” that health officials hope to eventually expand nationwide.

National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins said Wednesday that the Precision Medicine Initiative (SciPol brief available) will begin in Pittsburgh, where the agency aims to enroll up to 15,000 participants by the end of summer. It’s the start of a plan whose seeds were planted more than two years ago, when former President Barack Obama proposed a study to glean insights about health and disease by tracking a large group of people over decades.

The financial support for All of Us is still uncertain. Earlier this month, when Congress reached a plan to fund the federal government through the remainder of the fiscal year, lawmakers gave the NIH, which will finance the initiative, a budget boost. But the 2018 budget plan proposed by the Trump administration includes deep funding cuts to the NIH. It’s unclear if those cuts will hold when the budget ultimately makes its way through Congress, but even if things change, some NIH officials reportedly fear that the Trump administration will propose other ways to cut back NIH spending.

Collins said that All of Us will draw most of its financial support from the 21st Century Cures Act (SciPol brief available), a wide-ranging law that aims bolster biomedical research and also speed up the development and approval of new drugs and medical devices. The legislation, which earmarked $4.8 billion in financial support for the NIH, received bipartisan support in Congress last year. Collins said that under that law, All of Us is authorized to receive $1.5 billion over 10 years. He described the funds as “no-year money,” meaning that they can be spent now or later, giving the NIH flexibility. But Collins hopes that enrollment won’t take 10 years. His goal is to reach the 1 million volunteer mark by the end of 2022.

Read more at Xconomy National