The NIH has awarded $55 million to several institutions to launch the Precision Medicine Initiative Cohort Program, which aims to enroll at least 1 million Americans between 2016 and 2020 in a long-term study. Organizers say the program will facilitate collaboration among researchers, potentially accelerating the development of personalized therapies for cancer and other diseases.

The NIH recently awarded $55 million to several institutions to launch its Precision Medicine Initiative Cohort Program (PMI-CP), which aims to enroll at least 1 million Americans by 2020 in a long-term study starting this fall.

The PMI-CP will collect genetic information on participants along with their answers to a variety of questions about their lifestyle, behavior, and environment. They will also be asked about their health history, to contribute blood and urine samples for analysis, and to grant access to clinical data stored in their electronic health records.

The project has far-reaching implications for studying cancer and other diseases, says Joni Rutter, PhD, director of the Division of Programs and Strategic Implementation for the PMI-CP. “The comprehensiveness of the program and variety of information to be collected are unmatched,” she says. “It will allow scientists to identify new ways that these factors may be associated with one another and how they might impact diseases like cancer.”

With the PMI-CP, “we aim to achieve quadruple diversity—of people, health conditions, geographic areas, and datatypes—to build a rich resource for future studies,” adds Eric Dishman, PhD, PMI-CP director.

A unique feature of the project is allowing researchers and the public to access and view deidentified data via a secure website, as opposed to downloading files, says Rutter. Once approved for access, users will be able to identify and analyze the data pertaining to their research questions.

The project will facilitate cooperation among cancer researchers, says Roy Herbst, MD, PhD, chief of medical oncology at Yale Comprehensive Cancer Center in New Haven, CT. “We're not finding many new genes through individual sequencing studies,” he says. “These new centers will make it easier to collaborate and combine data with other research centers, which is especially important for rare cancers.”

In May, the NIH awarded Rochester, MN–based Mayo Clinic $142 million over 5 years to create a biobank to collect, store, analyze, and distribute biospecimens. The latest funds will support development of three additional centers and/or partnerships:

  • The Data and Research Support Center will organize and store datasets. It will also provide research support and analytic tools to researchers and the public. (Awarded to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, TN, in collaboration with the Broad Institute in Cambridge, MA, and Verily Life Sciences in Mountain View, CA.)

  • The Participant Technologies Center will support direct enrollment of participants and develop mobile applications to collect data from and communicate with them. (Awarded to Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, CA, and Vibrent Health in Fairfax, VA.)

  • An initial set of healthcare provider organizations will assist with enrollment. It includes four regional medical centers and their collaborators (Columbia University Medical Center in New York, NY; Northwestern University in Chicago, IL; the University of Arizona in Tucson; and the University of Pittsburgh, PA), six community health centers, and Veterans Administration medical centers. –Janet Colwell

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