Intermountain Healthcare is launching a long-term prospective study to help physicians and researchers unlock the potential value of genomic data in order to advance precision medicine.
The system-wide study, called PRECISE, will enable the serial collection of tissue and blood specimens from healthy individuals, as well as patients with diseases treated at Intermountain Healthcare, and then attempt to link the genomic data to clinical outcomes in the future.
“The general collection protocol allows us, in a very broad fashion, to collect leftover specimens from patients that would normally be discarded,” says Bryce Moulton, clinical research director for precision genomics at Intermountain Healthcare. “What’s great about Intermountain is we have a large electronic health record, and we have access to clinical data as well, along with these samples.”
The tissue storage and analysis for PRECISE will be conducted at Intermountain’s Translational Science Center in St. George, Utah, which leverages the power of next-generation sequencing and state-of-the-art genomics and is capable of sequencing thousands of genomes annually. Recruitment, enrollment and sample collection for the study will take place across the health system’s hospitals and clinics.
“Right now, it’s all open-ended with regards to the length of the study and subject enrollment,” says Tyler Barker, the principle investigator for the study at Intermountain.
“PRECISE allows us to create a diverse biobank of varied sample types that will serve as a hypothesis-generating resource for future precision health initiatives,” adds Moulton. “One of our goals as an organization is to shift the needle towards earlier screening using genomic technology.”
Intermountain also recently announced that it is building a new global DNA database based on electronic health histories from people around the world, which the research community will use to determine who might be at risk for developing genetic diseases.
According to Moulton, since the late 1970s, Intermountain has collected tissue samples that are stored in more than 5 million Formalin-fixed, Paraffin-embedded (FFPE) blocks.
“For genomic analysis, where we are looking at DNA, we find that FFPE sometimes proves difficult,” observes Moulton. “A superior method is fresh-frozen, stored in a minus 80-degree freezer. With fresh-frozen samples, we are able to preserve and better analyze DNA, RNA and other cellular components. We’re going to be able to look at DNA, RNA and protein.”
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