Got genes: Obama proposes genetic biobank of 1mn Americans’ DNA to fight disease

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Reuters/National Human Genome Research Institute/Handout

A new $215 million US government proposal would seek more than 1 million American volunteers for analysis of their genetic information in an initiative to fight disease, while developing targeted health care based on one’s DNA.

Officials hope the biobank project, announced Friday by President Barack Obama, can merge existing genetic studies with a diverse range of new volunteers to hit 1 million participants.

“Precision medicine gives us one of the greatest opportunities for new medical breakthroughs we’ve ever seen,” Obama said Friday, adding that it would “lay a foundation for a new era of life-saving discoveries.”

For the immediate future, the stated goal of the project is to fight disease, especially cancer, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), said at a news conference Thursday, Reuters reported.

READ MORE: Most cancer cases pure bad luck, not preventable – study

Volunteers, he said, have “an opportunity to take part in something historic.”

In the long run, Collins said the initiative would help with individualized health care.

How the US government will ensure that individual genetic information is kept private will certainly become a point of concern for many. A government-led database system amassing genetic coding will likely face resistance in this age of a global spying regime run by the US National Security Agency (NSA) and a genetic patent system used by the likes of Monsanto to consolidate legal ownership of the natural world.

For now, President Obama has proposed $215 million of his 2016 budget for the project: $130 million would go to the NIH for research; $70 million to NIH’s National Cancer Institute to study molecular triggers of cancer for eventual drug production; $10 million to the US Food and Drug Administration to construct regulatory guidelines; and $5 million to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to protect private data.

By RT News
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