A recent report published by the National Research Council (NRC) calls for the establishment of a new data network that could transform the way medical diagnosis, treatment, and research is performed. It would involve integrating emerging research on the molecular makeup of diseases with detailed clinical data on individual patients. This innovative method would attempt to bridge the current disconnect that “exists between the wealth of scientific advances in research and the incorporation of this information into the clinic,” according to Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellmann, co-chair of the committee that authored the report.

The report outlines two major ideas that would need to be developed. First, a “new taxonomy” that defines disease based on underlying molecular and environmental causes is needed. This would be used in addition to the traditional method of tracking physical signs and symptoms, but would be much more specific and tailored to individual patients. Second, the creation of a “knowledge network” containing research and clinical data on individual patients that is widely accessible to researchers and clinicians. The network would contain archives that link layers of molecular data, medical histories, including social and physical environments, and health outcomes for individual patients.

The committee argues that these initiatives would improve health care and medical research by providing doctors and scientists more access to vast troves of patient information while still protecting individual rights. Additionally, it could greatly reduce the time it takes for medical research information to reach doctors and patients.

To learn more, please visit http://dels.nas.edu/Report/Toward-Precision-Medicine-Building-Knowledge/13284.


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