Pulse on Health: Mayo Clinic pins hopes on Obama's 'precision medicine'

Pres. Obama's focus on "precision medicine" during his State of the Union address has electrified the scientific community.

Mayo Clinic researchers and decision-makers, in particular, have openly embraced the president's proposal to invest $130 million — of his $215 million precision-medicine proposal — directly into a national biobank program.

Obama's "precision medicine" is another name for "individualized medicine" — treatment designed for each person's individual genetic profile.

In 2013, Mayo reports, its Florida campus became one of the few places in the U.S. to offer whole-exome sequencing to diagnose patients.

Whole-exome sequencing looks for mutations in all of a person's 22,000 genes at once.


Dr. Gianrico Farrugia, CEO of Mayo Clinic-Florida, former director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine, attended a White House announcement Jan. 30 that unveiled details of Obama's precision-medicine plan.

"Mayo Clinic has among the country's largest collections through the Mayo Clinic Biobank ," he said in Mayo's statement after the White House announcement.

The Mayo biobank began collecting samples from volunteers in 2009.

Its current goal is 50,000 participants of various ages. More than 40,000 have signed up already, meaning the Mayo biobank is a prime candidate for the national biobank Obama has proposed to Congress in his budget.

"Unlike many biobanks in existence at Mayo Clinic and elsewhere, the Mayo Clinic Biobank is not focused on any particular disease. Rather, the Biobank collects samples and health information from patients and other volunteers regardless of health history," says an online description.

Researchers who need healthy "controls" for comparison, or people with a history of an ailment, can ask to study samples.

Mayo researchers are hoping aloud that the president's biobanking proposal will, indeed, become a top national budget priority.

For example, Mayo in Jacksonville wrote about a young Georgia man who until young adulthood faced debilitating spams.


Now 23, Dustin Bennett went to Mayo in Florida, got whole-exome sequencing and a diagnosis of episodic ataxia type 1, which has only been described in 100 patients worldwide.

There's no cure. But medicine improved both his ability to stay balanced and his cognitive function, which had both been affected.

Precision medicine represents an expanding capacity to medically intervene, particularly for rare conditions.

For questions about the Mayo biobank, call 507-293-0203 or email . You can read more about the biobank at .

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