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Precision medicine: are we there?

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Implementation of precision medicine requires a multidisciplinary and systematic approach

In his State of the Union address on 20 January 2015, United States President Barack Obama announced a new initiative in precision medicine, which aims to give “access to the personalised information we need to keep ourselves and our families healthier”.1 So, what is precision medicine? Previously referred to as personalised medicine, it can be defined as the correlation of innate and external factors at an individual level, to better understand the pattern of disease and its impact on the individual, and thus to tailor prevention, intervention and treatment. Precision medicine thus combines genomic and epigenomic data with environmental exposure and lifestyle factors. It has the potential not only to improve health outcomes but to save money by better targeting health interventions to those individuals most likely to benefit.

This research initiative in the US will provide funding through the National Institutes of Health and other partners, initially to cancer medicine. The longer term hope is to create better understanding of genomics, molecular biology and bioinformatics in a bid to improve health for all, not only people suffering with cancer.2

Genetics, the study of heredity, investigates the structure and function of a single gene. We are…