NIH awards $5.5 million to expand precision medicine program

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Four regional medical center groups will receive $5.5 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to begin implementation of the Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI) Cohort program.

The program aims to include one million or more participants who, by contributing data through questionnaires, electronic health records, blood and urine samples and real-time information through mobile devices, will expand geonomics research and eventually, “improve the ability to prevent and treat disease based on individual differences in lifestyle, environment and genetics.”

The new awardees could end up getting $16 million as PMI efforts advance, NIH said in a press release. The first-year funds will be used for enrollment activities, gathering participants’ health information and biospecimens and developing plans for the program with input from the new organizations and those which were announced in June.

“We want this program to be open to everyone across the United States,” Eric Dishman, director of the PMI Cohort Program, said in a statement. “These additional health care provider organizations will help us in our efforts to reach communities that have been underrepresented in research. By contributing their information, these communities will help people and their health care providers identify the right prevention strategies or treatments. With the PMI Cohort Program, we’re making a concerted effort to include people from all communities and walks of life, to make sure that the knowledge we gain benefits everyone.”

The new awardees are:

  • California Precision Medicine Consortium: University of California San Diego, with partners Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles; San Diego Blood Bank; University of California, Davis; University of California Health; University of California, Irvine; University of California, San Francisco; and University of Southern California, Los Angeles
  • Geisinger Health System, Danville, Pennsylvania
  • New England Precision Medicine Consortium: Partners HealthCare System and its hospitals, Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, with Boston University and Boston Medical Center
  • Trans-American Consortium for the Health Care Systems Research Network: Henry Ford Health System, Detroit, with partners Baylor Scott and White Research Institute, Dallas; Essentia Health, Duluth, Minnesota; Spectrum Health, Grand Rapids, Michigan; and University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester

NIH said the new awardees would expand the reach of the PMO, describing the facilities as having “expertise in engaging racial and ethnic minority populations who have been historically underrepresented in biomedical research.” The provider organizations would also target other populations normally left out of research projects, like people with mental illnesses or substance abuse problems.