White House Promotes Precision Medicine

June 6-7, 2016, the “Precision Public Health Summit: The First 1,000 Days” is being held at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) where the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will discuss approaches to address health disparities and improve population health.

The two day summit will host over 150 of the country’s most prominent leaders in technology and data science, academia, child and public health, and policy to fuel meaningful and applicable discussions to address public health issues, build coalitions, and identify subsequent actionable steps on a local and national scale.

“Precision Public Health Summit: The First 1,000 Days” focuses on the most critical years of development in a child’s life. Nationally renowned experts will examine how a health data network can be securely shared with academics, physicians, and community-based organizations to ensure the best opportunities for the survival and growth of all children, irrespective of their origins or place of residence.

Sam Hawgood, MBBS, Chancellor at UCSF and Arthur and Toni Rembe Rock Distinguished Professor will present the opening remarks at the summit. The university’s institutional vision encourages advancements in precision medicine and Hawgood has driven the vision as his top priority. Keynote remarks will also be provided by U.S Chief Data Scientist DJ Patil and Claudia Williams, senior policy advisor at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, where they will highlight the pivotal role of data and technology in achieving the goals of the summit.  

Approaching public health through precision medicine

In his 2015 State of the Union Address, President Obama announced the launch of the Precision Medicine Initiative as an effort to revolutionize the treatment of disease. The precision medicine approach tailors medical treatments to an individual’s genetic profile, lifestyle, and environment. Although this approach has lead to innovative treatment of diseases such as cancer, the practice has not been widely applied for the treatment of most diseases.

For the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Genomics and Health Impact Blog, Muin Khoury, director of the CDC’s Office of Public Health Genomics, explains how rapid advances in the biomedical sciences such as genomics and bioinformatics will usher a new era of precision medicine that goes beyond the individualized treatment of sick individuals. “The word ‘precision’ in the context of public health can be simply described as improving the ability to prevent disease, promote health and reduce health disparities in populations by: 1) applying emerging methods and technologies for measuring disease, pathogens, exposures, behaviors, and susceptibility in populations; and 2) developing policies and targeted public health programs to improve health. We are currently seeing the initial drive towards precision public health but much more work lies ahead, especially in collaboration with health care,” he stated.

Momentum gained by precision public health

Precision public health is gaining momentum by virtue of leadership from Susan Desmond-Hellmann, M.D., MPH, chief executive officer of the Gates Foundation and former UCSF chancellor. She spent 14 years conducting research at Genentech where she developed a number of breakthrough medicines, including Avastin and Herceptin, the first gene-targeted therapies for cancer, which placed her at the forefront of precision medicine.

Desmond-Hellman will be a keynote speaker highlighting her expertise in precision medicine at the Precision Public Health Summit, a topic she spoke on during a TED talk earlier this year. She pioneered and defined precision medicine in a 2011 National Academy of Sciences report she co-authored with Charles Sawyer, M.D., chair of the Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and others. In continuation of her work, other UCSF faculty have been at the forefront of precision medicine initiatives introduced by President Barack Obama and Governor Jerry Brown including Atul Butte, M.D., Ph.D.,professor at UCSF School of Medicine and director of the UCSF Institute for Computational Health Sciences and Keith Yamamoto, Ph.D., professor at the UCSF School of Medicine and Vice Chancellor for Science Policy and Strategy, Vice Dean for Research, School of Medicine.

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