NIH awards $55M for PMI data center, participant technologies

The National Institutes of Health has made $55 million in awards as part of the Obama administration’s Precision Medicine Initiative to support longitudinal research involving the medical information of 1 million or more volunteers.

The awards will support a data and research support center and participant technologies center, as well as other areas of investment that will fund technology that will contain a wide range of health, environment and lifestyle information from study participants.

Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., will get a grant to support the development of a data and research support center that will acquire and organize data; it will be one of the world’s largest and most diverse datasets for precision medicine research, NIH officials say. Vanderbilt, working with the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Mass., and Verily Life Sciences (formerly Google Life Sciences) of Mountain View, Calif., also will provide research support for the scientific data and analysis tools for the program.

Scripps Research Institute in San Diego and Vibrent Health of Fairfax, Va., will receive a grant to develop the participant technologies center. The organizations will develop, test, maintain and upgrade PMI Cohort Program mobile applications.

“These mobile apps will be used to enroll, consent, collect data from and communicate with PMI Cohort Program participants,” said the NIH announcement. “Importantly, the center will need to develop parallel platforms to deliver these same functions to those without smartphones, and work with various technology organizations to increase smartphone accessibility.”


In May, NIH made an award to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., to build the PMI Cohort Program Biobank to support the collection, analyses, storage and distribution for research use of biospecimens.

“This range of information, at the scale of 1 million people from all walks of life, will be an unprecedented resource for researchers working to understand all of the factors that influence health and disease,” said NIH Director Francis Collins, MD. “Over time, data provided by participants will help us answer important health questions, such as why some people with elevated genetic and environmental risk factors for disease still manage to maintain good health, and how people suffering from a chronic illness can maintain the highest possible quality of life.”

To be launched later this year, the goal of the PMI cohort is to meet its enrollment goal of 1 million participants by 2020. Volunteers in the study will share genomic and other biological information through simple blood and urine tests, as well as grant access to their clinical data from electronic health records. Mobile health devices and apps also will be leveraged to provide lifestyle data and environmental exposures in real time.

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