· Alert patients that they are at risk for certain diseases. Once scientists discover which DNA sequence changes in a gene can cause disease, healthy people can be tested to see whether they risk developing conditions such as diabetes or prostate cancer later in life. In many cases, this advance warning can be a cue to start a vigilant screening program, to take preventive medicines, or to make diet or lifestyle changes that may prevent the disease.
· Reliably predict the course of disease. Diagnosing ailments more precisely will lead to more reliable predictions about the course of a disease. For example, a genetic fingerprint will allow doctors treating prostate cancer to predict how aggressive a tumor will be. New genetic information will help patients and doctors weigh the risks and benefits of different treatments.
· Precisely diagnose disease and ensure the most effective treatment is used. Genetic analysis allows us to classify diseases, such as colon cancer and skin cancer, into more defined categories. These improved classifications will eventually allow scientists to tailor drugs for patients whose individual response can be predicted by genetic fingerprinting. For example, cancer patients facing chemotherapy could receive a genetic fingerprint of their tumor that would predict which chemotherapy choices are most likely to be effective, leading to fewer side effects from the treatment and improved prognoses.
· Developing new treatments at the molecular level. Drug design guided by an understanding of how genes work, and knowledge of exactly what happens at the molecular level to cause disease, will lead to more effective therapies. In many cases, rather than trying to replace a gene, it may be more effective and simpler to replace a defective gene's protein product. Alternatively, it may be possible to administer a small molecule that would interact with the protein to change its behavior. This is the strategy behind a drug in development for chronic myelogenous leukemia, which targets the genetic flaw causing the disease. It attaches to the abnormal protein caused by the genetic flaw and blocks its activity. In preliminary tests, blood counts returned to normal in all patients treated with the drug.
TODAY'S ANNOUNCEMENT REPRESENTS THE STARTING POINT FOR A NEW ERA OF GENETIC MEDICINE. The sequence represents only the first step in the full decoding of the genome, because most of the individual genes and their specific functions must still be deciphered and understood. This research has begun, and already, tens of thousands of genes have been identified, including some related to deafness, kidney disease, breast cancer, hereditary skeletal disorders, hemorrhagic stroke and diabetes, thus advancing the work of researchers worldwide at a rate that would have impossible without these data. The Human Genome Project, which completed its version of the working draft two years ahead of schedule and under budget, will continue its longstanding practice of making all of its sequencing data available to public and privately funded researchers worldwide at no cost. Celera Genomics, which makes its sequencing data available by subscription, will also make its version of the consensus human genome sequence available to non-subscribers upon publication.
PRESIDENT CLINTON PLEDGES STRONG SUPPORT FOR GENETIC RESEARCH BY BOTH THE PUBLIC AND PRIVATE SECTORS. President Clinton reiterated the commitment of the United States to robust Federal support for basic scientific research facilitating medical application of the science. President Clinton also stated his support for a strong structure to review the medical, ethical and other issues presented by the expected new power of genetic medicine, building on the multi-million dollar investment the Human Genome Project already makes in research on the social, ethical and legal implications of this work. He recognized that research and development by biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies will be key to the translation of human genome sequence data into useful, new healthcare products and pledged to strengthen a business environment that will spur research and development in these vital sectors. The President also reaffirmed his support for patenting genetic discoveries that have substantial and credible uses. By protecting and rewarding investment in research, consistent with current law, this policy of intellectual property protection will promote rapid conversion of basic knowledge into useful applications, while at the same time allowing a maximum free flow of basic scientific information.
TODAY'S ANNOUNCEMENT BUILDS ON THE CLINTON-GORE
ADMINISTRATION'S STRONG COMMITMENT TO PROTECTING PRIVATE GENETIC INFORMATION.
Since 1997, the President and Vice President have called for legislation
that will guarantee that Americans who are self-employed or otherwise buy
health insurance themselves will not lose or be denied that health insurance
because of their genetic makeup. Last winter, President Clinton signed
an executive order that prohibits every civilian Federal Department and
agency from using genetic information in any hiring or promotion action.
This historic action prevented critical information from genetic tests
used to help predict, prevent, and treat diseases, from being used against
Federal employees. In addition, President Clinton has endorsed the
Genetic Nondiscrimination in Health Insurance and Employment Act of 1999,
introduced by Senator Daschle and Congresswoman Slaughter, that will extend
these employment protections to the private sector and finish the job of
helping to extend protections to individuals purchasing health insurance,
begun with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.