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California Governor’s Proposal to Add $10 Million to Precision Medicine Research Advances

An Assembly budget subcommittee has given its approval to Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal, siding with advocates who say the state should support advances in medicine that could improve the lives of Californians.

by Samantha Young / April 28, 2016
California Assembly chamber Flickr/LWYang
California Assembly chamberFlickr/LWYang

An Assembly budget subcommittee has given its approval to Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to add $10 million to precision medicine research, siding with advocates who say the state should support advances in medicine that could improve the lives of Californians.

The 3-1 vote came after the Legislative Analyst's Office raised questions in March about whether the growing field of precision medicine could draw money elsewhere, including the private sector and federal government.

Precision medicine involves gathering and using multiple data sets such as electronic health records, genetic data, environmental and behavioral data that could help doctors improve health care and find individualized treatments, Dr. Elizabeth Baca, senior health advisor at the governor’s Office of Planning and Research, told the Budget Subcommittee No. 4 on State Administration.

“It’s really an exciting time right now in medicine to think about how much we’re learning and being able to really better provide treatment and cures to patients individually,” Baca said at last week’s hearing.

The LAO has questioned whether state funding is needed because most of California’s research institutions receive a majority of their research funding from federal, private, and other non-state sources. President Obama last year announced a federal initiative being led by the National Institutes of Health on precision medicine.

Among the questions the LAO posed to lawmakers in a March memo were, “Are federal resources for the research inadequate?” and “Are economic incentives insufficient to spur privately funded research?”

“The state currently does not have a framework for prioritizing the allocation of General Fund monies across various research topics,” The LAO wrote. “Without such a framework, it is difficult to evaluate the Governor’s proposal.”

Brown’s $10 million request seeks to position the state as a coordinator of public, private and nonprofit partners who want “to convert data to new knowledge,” according to the proposal. Specifically, the one-time funding would help “to build tools, applications and platforms that integrate diverse data sets that will lead to improved health outcomes and new areas for healthcare innovation and discovery; and to establish a more dynamic asset inventory in the state.”

It builds upon a $3 million appropriation in FY 2014-2015 that lawmakers authorized for two demonstration projects being led by the University of California, San Francisco and the University of California, Santa Cruz to study acute infectious disease and pediatric cancer respectively. The projects have drawn collaborators from other universities, hospitals, industry and nonprofits.

The additional funding would allow for another six demonstration projects that would be bid competitively under the umbrella of the California Initiative to Advance Precision Medicine.

Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, who voted for the proposal, said he wanted to learn more about how technology can help doctors and scientists develop new treatment options for patients.

“Precision medicine is an emerging field, to which the State has made a moderate investment in thus far,” Mullin said in a statement to TechWire. “And, if it can bring more opportunities forward to help find cures for these diseases and help advance the work currently being done in this area, I think it’s worth making every effort to fund this important work.”

This story was originally published by TechWire.

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