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Autism Speaks participates in White House Precision Medicine Summit

Autism Speaks' whole genome sequencing program among the innovative precision medicine initiatives discussed at White House summit
February 29, 2016

On Feb 25, the White House hosted the Precision Medicine Initiative Summit, marking the one-year anniversary of the initiative to advance tailored treatments and preventive care based, in part, on each patient’s genetic predispositions.

President Obama joined researchers and patient advocates to talk about the promise of precision medicine. As an invited guest, geneticist Mathew Pletcher, Autism Speaks’ interim chief science officer, participated in a panel discussing ways in which precision medicine is already being used to guide and improve healthcare – and how this progress can be accelerated and broadened.

Autism Speaks signature MSSNG program is dedicated to harnessing the power of whole-genome sequencing to advance the development of personalized diagnosis, medical services, behavioral therapies and life supports for people who have autism. The program is now well on the way to sequencing the DNA of more than 10,000 families affected by autism. Already it has made thousands of privacy-protected genomes available for autism research.

Learn more about MSSNG here.

National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins recognized the efforts of patient advocacy and research groups such as Autism Speaks in advancing precision treatments for a broad range of physical and mental health issues. 

Dr. Collins also announced several new commitments – including plans to recruit at least a million patients willing to share anonymous electronic medical records combined with lifestyle information collected using wearable or smartphone technology.

“This is an extraordinarily exciting time for the sciences,” President Obama said. “Much of this traces back to the mapping of the human genome, which at the time was enormously expensive. With the advance of computers and big data, we are now seeing a rapid acceleration in making that process cheaper, spurring new understanding.”

The key, President Obama added, is to build databases that “invite all of us” to contribute genetic, medical and other personal information that can accelerate the development of more effective and personalized supports and treatments.

In addition to MSSNG, Autism Speaks co-sponsors Autism BrainNet, which encourages individuals and families affected by autism to register for postmortem donation of brain tissue that will be dedicated to research that advances understanding and treatment of autism.

Learn more about participating in BrainNet here.

Last year, President Obama announced the Precision Medicine Initiative to accelerate research into treatments tailored to individual patients. He’s asking Congress for $309 million to fund the initiative next year.

To learn more, also see:
President Obama Announces National Precision Medicine Initiative
Progress report on precision therapies for autism

Watch the archived webcast of the summit's morning statements and panel below.