NIH establishes three genome centers to support PMI cohort

The National Institutes of Health is funding three centers to generate genomic data from biosamples provided by a million volunteers as part of the Precision Medicine Initiative’s All of Us research program.

The genome centers, which were awarded funds totaling $28.6 million, will sequence 1 million genomes to help PMI researchers make medical breakthroughs by measuring risk for a range of diseases based on environmental exposures, genetic factors and interactions between the two.

“Initially, these results will include information about a set of 59 genes known to be associated with risk of certain diseases amenable to prevention or early diagnosis (known as the ACMG 59), as defined by the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics,” states NIH’s announcement. “The centers also will return information about drug-gene interactions (pharmacogenomics) that may help inform what medications might be best suited for particular conditions based on participants’ genetic makeup. In the future, information about participants’ ancestry and traits will also be available.”

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The three All of Us research program centers will be led by:

  • Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, with Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, and The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).
  • The Broad Institute, Cambridge, Mass., with Color, Burlingame, Calif., and the Laboratory for Molecular Medicine at Partners HealthCare, Cambridge, Mass.
  • The University of Washington, Seattle.

Besides producing genomic data for researchers, the centers will also provide analysis of genetic results “to be responsibly returned to participants who are interested in receiving them,” according to NIH, which noted that awardees were selected based on their “proven track record at generating genomic data at scale, providing clinical validation services to verify medically-relevant variants and participating in large-scale research collaborations.”

Participants in the All of Us research program will contribute their physical, genomic and electronic health record data. In addition to providing blood and urine samples as well as access to their EHRs, volunteers’ information will be collected through fitness trackers, physical measurements and surveys.

“Fifteen years after the mapping of the human genome, this is a pivotal step toward realizing the promise of that historic achievement,” says Francis Collins, MD, director of NIH. “Including high-quality genomic information along with many other data types collected in the All of Us program will speed up scientific breakthroughs and ultimately improve the health of future generations.”

In May, the All of Us research program officially began national enrollment. Currently, more than 110,000 volunteers have signed up to provide their health information, and more than 60,000 have completed all elements of the core protocol.

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“Diversity is a hallmark of this effort,” says Eric Dishman, director of the All of Us research program. “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. Bringing on these new partners is an important milestone for our program as we look to add genotyping and whole genome sequencing data to the many other data types we’re already collecting.”

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