NHGRI Funds Electronic Medical Record Genomics Network

August 22, 2011

By Bio-IT World Staff 

August 23, 2011 | Grants worth $25 millions over the next four years from the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) will support researchers that are part of the Electronic Medical Records and Genomics (eMERGE) network.The grants will fund research to demonstrate that patients' genomic information linked to disease characteristics and symptoms in their electronic medical records can be used to improve their care.    

“Our goal is to connect genomic information to high quality data in electronic medical records during the clinical care of patients. This will help us identify the genetic contributions to disease,” said NHGRI director Eric Green in a press release. “We can then equip health care workers everywhere with the information and tools that they need to apply genomic knowledge to patient care.” 

The first phase of eMERGE, which wrapped up in July, demonstrated that data about disease characteristics in electronic medical records and patient’s genetic information can be used in large genetic studies. So far, the eMERGE network has identified genetic variants associated with dementia, cataracts, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, peripheral arterial disease, white blood cell count, type 2 diabetes and cardiac conduction defects. 

In the next phase, investigators will identify genetic variants associated with 40 more disease characteristics and symptoms, using genome-wide association studies across the entire eMERGE network. DNA from about 32,000 participants will be analyzed in each study. eMERGE researchers will then use the genomic information in clinical care: adjusting patient medications or intervening to prevent, diagnose, or treat diseases for which a patient has a genetic varient.  

The goal of the work is to develop best practices and policies to determine how best to use patient information for research or patient care.  

eMERGE network members include Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tenn; Group Health Cooperative and University of Washington, Seattle; Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill.; Geisinger Weis Center for Research, Danville, Pa.; Essentia Institute of Rural Health, Duluth, Minn.; Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.; and Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York. Vanderbilt University will host the eMERGE coordinating center for supporting and facilitating the work by network investigators.  

More details about eMERGE are available at http://www.genome.gov/27540473