Local professor's research is helping to shape national initiative on precision medicine

In President Obama's State of the Union address last month, the nation heard a likely unfamiliar term: "precision medicine." The practice is aimed at carefully customizing healthcare treatments to improve outcomes for patients, with the fringe benefit of reducing cost.
This week the President unveiled the details of the bold new research initiative that he says can "bring us closer to curing diseases like cancer and diabetes--and to give all of us access to the personalized information we need to keep ourselves and our families healthier."
The initiative has some Memphis roots, thanks to work from University of Memphis Computer Science Professor Dr. Santosh Kumar, who was a key contributor to the effort.
The Precision Medicine Initiative aims to enable delivery of the right treatment, at the right time, to the right patient, by tapping diverse and individualized sources of patient data and using them to develop effective, individualized treatments and preventive interventions. Success hinges, in part, on leveraging the latest in technological advances to get those data in the hands of individuals and their doctors using the type of mobile and wearable health sensors and information analytics systems that Kumar and his team of collaborators are pioneering and perfecting.
In recognition of his leadership in the field, Kumar has been part of a small invited team of academic, industry and government leaders working to craft an agenda to move the Precision Medicine Initiative forward. Later this month, he will participate in a national workshop at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to present these recommendations. As one of just three presenters on mobile technologies, Kumar will highlight the current state of the art of mobile health sensors in early detection, prediction and prevention of diseases and in delivering personalized and precision treatments.
"Dr. Kumar's involvement in this signature new initiative helps solidify the University of Memphis' position at the forefront of biomedical computing research," said University of Memphis President M. David Rudd. "The transformational technologies that emerge will shape the way all of us engage with the nation's healthcare system."
In October, Kumar and a team of renowned researchers in computer science, engineering, statistics and biomedicine from 11 universities were awarded a $10.8 million NIH National Center of Excellence grant to develop innovative mHealth tools. Their goal is to develop big data solutions that will make it easier to gather, analyze and interpret health data generated by mobile and wearable sensors. In turn, this will yield better understanding of the physical, biological, behavioral, social and environmental factors that contribute to health and disease risk.
The Precision Medicine Initiative will help take this work to the next level. "Similar to the Human Genome Project, 20 years from now we will look back and see that this initiative has changed the current paradigm of disease management to one of health and wellness management," said Kumar. 
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Anna is a local writer, editor and non-profit administrator. She serves as Managing Editor for High Ground and as the Director of Communications and Marketing for the New Memphis Institute. Share feedback and story ideas with her here.

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