NIH-Funded Genome Centers To Accelerate Precision Medicine Discoveries

September 26, 2018

Editor's Note: Changes to Color's role with the Broad Institute has been edited in paragraph 4.

By Bio-IT World Staff

September 26, 2018 | The All of Us Research Program awarded funds totaling $28.6 million to establish three genome centers around the country. These centers will begin to generate genomic data from biosamples contributed by the program’s participants.

Ultimately, this information will become a critical component in the program’s precision medicine research platform, a national resource to support studies on a variety of important health questions. The All of Us Research Program is part of the National Institutes of Health.

“Fifteen years after the mapping of the human genome, this is a pivotal step toward realizing the promise of that historic achievement,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, in an official statement. “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.”

The new genome centers include the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, in partnership with the Laboratory for Molecular Medicine (LMM) at Partners HealthCare and Color.

Color will be responsible for analyzing and reporting genomic data, with expert support from Partners LMM, for a set of 59 genes that can cause serious and preventable clinical conditions such as breast and ovarian cancer, familial hypercholesterolemia, Lynch syndrome, and others. Color will also provide pharmacogenomic results, which offer useful information about how the body processes and responds to medications. These analyses will be based on clinical-grade genomic data generated at the Broad Institute, one of the world's leading clinical genomic and health research facilities.

Other All of Us Research Program Genome Centers will be led by the Baylor College of Medicine and its partners, the Johns Hopkins University Center for Inherited Disease Research (CIDR) and the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, through the Baylor Hopkins Clinical Genome Center (BHCGC). DNAnexus has announced they will serve as the primary portal for the BHCGC consortium.

The University of Washington, Seattle will serve as the leader of the third All of Us Research Program Genome Center.

The All of Us Research Program is one of the country’s most ambitious biomedical research efforts ever undertaken. It aims to build a nationwide community of 1 million or more participants from all walks of life, including groups that have been historically underrepresented in research. So far, more than 110,000 people have registered with the program to begin the participant journey, and more than 60,000 have completed all elements of the core protocol. These participants are sharing different types of information, including through surveys, access to their electronic health records and blood and urine samples. Over time, they will continue to share information through additional surveys, biosamples, fitness trackers and more. These data, stripped of obvious identifiers, will be accessible to researchers, whose findings may lead to more tailored treatments and prevention strategies in the future.

“Diversity is a hallmark of this effort. 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,” Eric Dishman, director of the All of Us Research Program, said in a press release. “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.”

The genome center 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. The award periods may extend up to five years, pending progress and the availability of funds.

“Many people are curious about their genetic makeup,” said Dishman. "This program will empower participants to learn more about their health, while furthering researching to benefit all of us."