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Genome Centers Named for Precision Medicine Program

DNA methylation illustration

(Christoph Bock, Wikimedia Commons)

26 September 2018. Three medical research centers in the U.S. will begin analyzing the DNA in specimen samples from participants in a large-scale precision medicine initiative conducted by National Institutes of Health. NIH announced yesterday the genomic analysis centers, which will also receive a total of $28.6 million, for the All of Us program.

The All of Us initiative is a precision medicine research program enrolling 1 million participants in the U.S. The program plans to gain better insights into biological, environmental, and behavioral factors that influence an individual’s health, taking into account a person’s lifestyle as well as his or her specific molecular makeup. All of Us is taking advantage of the wider availability and lower cost of genomic sequencing as well as expansion in the use of electronic medical records. With permission of the participants and a high priority on security, according to the project leaders, All of Us expects to mine these data to accelerate the advance of medical outcomes designed for an individual’s genomic composition and lifestyle.

The program’s three genomic centers named yesterday will collect and analyze blood and urine samples collected from the All of Us participants:

Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, with Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and University of Texas Health Science Center, also in Houston.

Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a genomic research center affiliated with Harvard Medical School and MIT, joined by the Laboratory for Molecular Medicine at Partners HealthCare also in Cambridge, and the genetic analysis company Color in Burlingame, California

University of Washington in Seattle

The three centers are expected to analyze a set of 59 genes, identified by American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics associated with a high risk of serious diseases, but also early indicators of these potential conditions, allowing more options for prevention and care. In addition to generating data for researchers, the All of Us program plans to return the analysis to participants that want the results, as well as information about drugs’ interactions with these genes to help identify medications that best fit the person’s genomic profile.

The program expects to name genetic counselors to help participants interpret the results later this year. However, the genomic analysis is not expected to immediately produce data on ancestry and traits now offered by some consumer genetic services.

Some 110,000 participants already enrolled in All of Us, but Eric Dishman, the program’s director says the diversity of participants is at least as important as the raw numbers. “Diversity is a hallmark of this effort,” he notes in an NIH statement. “We strive for diversity of people and also diversity of data types, so researchers can understand the many factors that influence health and health outcomes for each of us.”

Dishman is a former Intel Corp. executive who benefited from early precision medicine treatments to survive a rare form of kidney cancer. He tells more about the genomic centers and the All of Us program in the following video.

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