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Alexander Tells National Institutes of Health’s Precision Medicine Working Group that Senate Legislation Will Make Precision Medicine a Reality

Urges participants at NIH workshop at Vanderbilt University to provide his committee with a “specific blueprint” for this cutting-edge initiative to treat patients based on individual genome information


"Precision medicine—tailoring treatments and cures to individuals—has the potential to affect and improve the life of every American." –Lamar Alexander

NASHVILLE, May 28 – Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today joined a special session of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) workshop as part of the president’s Precision Medicine Initiative, and told participants, including NIH Director Francis Collins, he was working in the Senate to make precision medicine and other cutting-edge medicine a reality for American patients.

Alexander told the workshop participants: “Precision medicine—tailoring treatments and cures to individuals—has the potential to affect and improve the life of every American. I chair the Senate health policy committee, and I’m working with Senator Patty Murray, the committee’s top Democrat, to examine how we can get safe, cutting-edge drugs, medical devices, and treatments from the discovery process through the regulatory process into medicine cabinets and into doctors’ offices more quickly. Precision medicine is an important part of this committee initiative.”

He added: “Right now we’re holding hearings and have staff working groups looking at several areas of the discovery and approval process. The goal is to have legislation by the end of the year.”

Precision medicine is a developing field of medicine in which practitioners examine a patient’s genome to develop a personalized treatment plan, rather than simply use a standard treatment traditionally used for a particular disease or condition. The president earlier this year announced an initiative to create a national collection of 1 million human genomes that medical researchers across the country could access and study.

NIH’s Collins helped lead the effort to map the first human genome. That achievement, in 2003, is the basis for precision medicine.

Alexander urged the participants to provide Congress with a “specific blueprint” for precision medicine. “We don’t know what you know,” Alexander said. “So tell us.”

He also said today that he and the president had earlier this year discussed precision medicine as an area of bipartisan agreement and Alexander told the president he would include precision medicine in the committee’s medical innovation effort.  

Alexander joined the public workshop, held at Vanderbilt University, to hear more about how the NIH working group is working through the details of the president’s plan. He also requested input from the group on the senate’s work on legislation to speed the development of safe, cutting-edge treatments and drugs.

Alexander also discussed his work to improve electronic health records. Alexander chaired a hearing in Washington at which NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins and National Coordinator for Health Information Technology Dr. Karen DeSalvo testified earlier this month and discussed how electronic health records could affect precision medicine. Alexander said today he has begun a working group with Senator Murray “with the goal of identifying the five or six things we can do to help make the failed promise of electronic health records something that physicians and providers look forward to instead of something they endure”

At the event today, Alexander praised the work of Vanderbilt University in precision medicine, as well as the participation of Dr. Josh Denny, an Associate Professor of Biomedical Informatics and Medicine at Vanderbilt, in the NIH precision medicine working group. “Vanderbilt has been doing great things with precision medicine,” Alexander said. “From the development of a biobank linking DNA samples to de-identified patient records, which they call BioVU, to the PREDICT project that includes a patient’s genetic information in electronic health records to inform drug choice and dosages, Vanderbilt has been a leader in precision medicine.”

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