Obama says precision medicine is being held back by ‘creaky’ healthcare system
Former President Barack Obama praised the advances researchers are making in precision medicine but lamented the sluggish pace of adoption of these technologies in the US healthcare system at an event in San Diego on Wednesday.
In a fireside chat-style conversation before about 2,000 attendees at the Illumina Genomics Forum, Obama referenced his 2015 precision medicine initiative, which aimed to accelerate the adoption of personalized healthcare.
“I would say that we have continued to make tremendous progress on the research side,” he said. “The cost of genetic sequencing has continued to come down, meaning it has the potential for more people to use it, doctors to use it, and insurance companies to pay for it.
“To the extent that progress has been slower than I had hoped, it has less to do with the intricacies of precision medicine and more to do with the fact that we still have a big, creaky system that’s one-sixth the size of the US.” makes economy.”
Obama said the system has evolved to be “more of a disease delivery system than a healthcare delivery system. Until we reverse the incentive structure and mindset within this system, I suspect we will still have some issues.”
In a conversation that was at times relaxed and fun, inspirational and personal, Obama said his efforts in health policies, such as the Affordable Care Act, were partly due to his mother’s death from cancer at age 53.
“I have witnessed not only the physical and mental toll it has taken on her, but also the complexities of navigating a deeply inefficient healthcare system,” he said.
The former president shared the stage with Sonia Vallabh, who has a similar story. She is co-leader of research on prion disease prevention at the Broad Institute at Harvard and MIT. The former attorney switched to biomedical research after her mother died of rapid, undiagnosed dementia at the age of 52. Vallabh underwent genetic testing and learned that she had inherited the mutation, putting her at very high risk of developing the same disease.
Illumina is the leading manufacturer of advanced hardware, software and chemistry for genome sequencing. The company recently acquired Grail, which launched a diagnostic screening test that can detect up to 50 different types of cancer in a single blood test. Antitrust authorities in the US and Europe are trying to reverse the takeover.
Illumina Chief Executive Francis deSouza highlighted the advances DNA-based medicine has made in the detection of childhood diseases, cancer prevention and rare diseases. More than 205 countries are using gene sequencing as part of global surveillance efforts to track COVID-19. And gene sequencing is increasingly being used in agriculture to help crops and livestock adapt to climate change.
“These technologies have the potential to end food insecurity for hundreds of millions of people worldwide,” said deSouza.
The Illumina Genomics Forum continues for the remainder of this week at the Manchester Grand Hyatt downtown. Bill Gates, Scott Gottlieb and tennis legend Chris Evert will be among the speakers on global health and personalized medicine.