The emerging paradigm of precision medicine strives to leverage the tools of molecular biology to prospectively tailor treatments to the individual patient. Fundamental to the success of this movement is the discovery and validation of “predictive biomarkers,” which are properties of a patient’s biological specimens that can be assayed in advance of therapy to inform the treatment decision. Unfortunately, research into biomarkers and diagnostics for precision medicine has fallen well short of expectations. In this essay, we examine the portfolio of research activities into the excision repair cross complement group 1 (ERCC1) gene as a predictive biomarker for precision lung cancer therapy as a case study in elucidating the epistemological and ethical obstacles to developing new precision medicines.