At UC San Francisco, precision medicine is central to our overarching institutional vision. Precision medicine aims to collect, connect and apply vast amounts of scientific research data and information about our health – from the basic molecular understanding of disease to clinical, environmental, psychosocial and mobile lifestyle data – to understand why individuals respond differently to treatments and help guide more precise and predictive medicine and health worldwide.

We navigate through integrated, complex data daily, but the interface is so seamless that the vast amount of information being used goes unnoticed. For example, to give users the directions they’re seeking, Google Maps integrates data on road maps, construction, traffic delays, bridges, ferries and public transit routes. The goal of precision medicine is to develop a similar knowledge network that links different “layers” of information, all of the diverse data types relevant to health – from genetics and other molecular characteristics, to environmental exposures, and social factors – and grounds it with individual patients who share their data. Having this type of seamless interface for health data – something similar to Google Maps – would allow new discoveries in medicine. With such infrastructure, new data layers can be added as they become available and known to be relevant to health. There are many potential data sources from public and private partners and individuals. Once integrated, this data can be accessed and analyzed by clinicians, researchers and the public with applications that are appropriate for each group’s needs.

Precision medicine, as envisioned by UCSF, consists of seven overlapping and intersecting elements, including basic, clinical, and social/behavioral discovery, plus the enabling tools of digital health, 'omic technologies, and computational health sciences. These elements are integrated by a knowledge network, creating a sort of "Google maps for health." 

Making precision medicine a reality will take a sustained, collaborative effort by scientists, clinicians, health systems, industry, governments, insurers, patients and healthy individuals. UCSF aims to be a leader in conceptualizing and building precision medicine, convening stakeholders, and establishing a research platform that yields insights into the determinants of health and disease, and creates a working model of precision medicine.

We have already invested considerable resources to enable precision medicine efforts and have multiple pilot projects within each of these platform elements. As part of our strategy, we will continue to identify and support pilot projects and initiatives that will further precision medicine at UCSF and nationally. These efforts will focus on projects that will improve patient care and health, build physical and intellectual infrastructure, engage patients and healthy participants as partners, and have nucleating effects across and beyond our own institution.

There is much work to be done and great promise in each of the precision medicine platform elements. Importantly, advances in each of these areas and their pilot projects will also have synergistic effects, accelerating discovery, innovation and progress in the other elements, at each step improving prevention, diagnosis and treatment for each individual, as we move toward Precision Medicine.

In addition to current efforts UCSF investigators have played key roles in establishing the precision medicine concept. These include helping to lead the 2011 National Academy of Sciences committee that envisioned and named precision medicine, and to develop President Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative, announced at the 2015 State of the Union address. As the creator and host of the 2013 OME Precision Medicine Summit. UCSF brought together 170 leaders in science, health, technology and government to establish common ground, identify barriers and imagine collaborative approaches.

UCSF also is hosting the California Initiative to Advance Precision Medicine, launched in 2015 in collaboration with Governor Jerry Brown  to support precision medicine research projects that capitalize on the state’s intellectual resources, entrepreneurial spirit and broad demographics to produce real-world solutions.

Together, these efforts are powering transformative, data driven advances in care, accelerating discovery and improving health for Californians and beyond.