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Obama Introduces Bill to Help Tap Power of Genomics to Find Cures

Location: Washington, DC

Obama Introduces Bill to Help Tap Power of Genomics to Find Cures

U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) Wednesday announced that he has introduced legislation that will help scientists tap the power of genomics to find treatments for diseases that afflict millions of Americans each year. Obama said the bill would greatly increase funding for research, eliminate regulatory obstacles and create incentives to accelerate private sector innovation.

Ever since James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the structure of human DNA in 1953, our understanding of the structure and function of genes, commonly referred to as genomics, has grown exponentially. In 2003, the National Human Genome Research Institute and Department of Energy announced that they had successfully decoded the 3 billion base pairs of human DNA, raising the hope of a medical revolution. But despite significant scientific advances, very few genomic-based tests or treatments have reached consumers. Senator Obama's legislation, the Genomics and Personalized Medicine Act, will work to overcome scientific barriers, adverse market pressures and regulatory obstacles that have stood in the way of better health care.

"For more than a decade, we have been on the verge of a new era in medicine, but scientific hurdles, adverse market pressures and outdated regulations have blocked progress," Obama said. "This bill will help jumpstart innovation and clear the obstacles that have stood in the way of saving lives."

Scientists are only beginning to understand how our genetic makeup affects our propensity for disease or how we will respond to medicine. Today, the typical "blockbuster" drug is effective in only 40 to 60 percent of patients prescribed them. Meanwhile, serious adverse drug reactions impact 2.2 million people and kill an estimated 100,000 people per year in this country.

Genomics could eventually help predict which Americans will get sick, diagnose illness earlier, and screen patients to determine which drugs will be effective and safe. Doctors may eventually apply this science to personalize drug treatment to an individual patient's genetic makeup, significantly improving health care outcomes and quality. Drug manufacturers, meanwhile, will be able to better anticipate which new medicines will work, speeding up drug discovery.

Senator Obama's legislation seeks to spur innovation by allocating $150 million for research in genomics. It also provides a 100 percent tax credit for private research to develop of companion diagnostic tests that can improve the effectiveness or safety of certain drugs. The bill would modernize the Food and Drug Administration's outdated process for reviewing genomic tests.

The legislation also would help develop a system to collect, evaluate and synthesize genomic data from around the nation, providing researchers with an invaluable resource. It would also establish an interagency task force to accelerate the use of this research and would encourage the recruitment and retention of health professionals in the field of genomics.

"Genomics holds the promise of revolutionary advances in medicine," Obama said. "Hopefully Congress will soon realize the enormous potential of genomics and pass this legislation to support it."

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