While President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union Address drew considerable attention due to its focus on the middle class and improving the overall quality of life, it turned a number of heads in the healthcare industry for its inclusion of precision medicine. Defined as an initiative to improve medical treatments through the use of genetics and other health information, precision medicine would incorporate biobanking, translational medicine and a number of other growing fields. Now, it appears that the Obama Administration is already making moves to accomplish this goal: the White House Office of Science and Technology recently announced plans to increase research funding for the 2016 fiscal year, a change that could drastically improve translational research efforts across the country.
The White House’s announcement stands in sharp contrast to trends of recent years: since the economic downturn, numerous research institutes have commented that federal funding has decreased and funding committees have become more selective about which proposals they select for grants. This has made it difficult for a number of centers to continue their efforts: translational research and other projects require extensive amounts of time, labor and the right technology, whether that means laboratory sample management software or equipment for genomic sequencing.
In light of these challenges, research centers have been forced to adapt to make themselves more attractive to funding sources: Penn State University, for example, began investing heavily in its infrastructure, adding new research buildings and translational research centers, purchasing new equipment and hiring new faculty members. The university then began tailoring its projects to specific grants and seeking out funding opportunities from the private sector. Incredibly, this approach worked: Penn State received more research grants in 2011 than any other Ivy League university.
However, in spite of their success, even Penn State is reportedly skeptical of the White House’s planned increase in funding. The university’s Vice Provost of Research, for example, has pointed out that once the initiative is approved by Congress, the funding will hardly be across the board. Will the Administration’s planned funding lead to important changes in precision medicine and translational research? Only time will tell. References.