Color Receives Genetic Counseling Grant for All of Us

August 21, 2019

By Bio-IT World Staff

August 21, 2019 | The All of Us research program has awarded $4.6 million in initial funding to Color, a health technology company in Burlingame, California, to establish the program’s nationwide genetic counseling resource. Through this funding, Color’s network of genetic counselors will help participants understand what the genomic testing results mean for their health and their families.

In an update published in the New England Journal of Medicine last week, The authors estimated that of the 1 million proposed participants in the All of Us program, 30,000 participants could receive actionable findings according to the definitions set by the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics (ACMG) for reporting of incidental findings related to 59 genes, and more than 90% may learn of actionable pharmacogenomic variants.

Today’s announcement of a genetic counseling award to Color addresses those expected needs.

“Returning results in a responsible way is integral to what All of Us stands for,” said All of Us Director Eric Dishman in the NIH press release. “Participants are our partners in research, who may want to receive their own health data, including genomics. The genetic counseling resource will help our participants interpret and act upon their health information.”

As health-related information is made available, all participants will have access to genetic counseling services from Color. Color will deliver the results to these participants in genetic counseling sessions, highlighting any important findings they may want to discuss with a health care provider.

“A genetic counseling award of this size is a first for NIH,” said Brad Ozenberger, Ph.D., genomics program director of the All of Us research program. “We look forward to working with Color and our entire consortium to discover the ethical and effective ways to deliver genetic counseling at this very large scale across diverse communities.”

Color will offer educational materials and telecounseling in multiple languages, as well as access to in-house licensed clinical pharmacists who can help participants have more effective conversations with their health care providers. Genetic counselors will also be able to help connect participants to health care providers who can address their particular health risks.

To help guide its genetic counseling services, Color’s steering committee is led by Amy Sturm, M.S., CGC, LGC, president of the National Society of Genetic Counselors. It also includes leadership of the American Board of Genetic Counseling. The steering committee will help ensure that Color delivers top-quality genetic counseling and serves as a platform for training future generations of genetic counselors.

Color has built software and digital tools that remove traditional barriers to genetic counseling and clinical genetic testing. It has conducted more than 15,000 genetic counseling sessions to help people across the country understand their DNA information.

“The All of Us Research Program is a prime example of using technology to support geographically distributed and diverse research volunteers,” said Othman Laraki, chief executive officer of Color. “This ambitious program relies on a deeply unified process, which includes engaging participants, gathering health information, sequencing genomes, interpreting data and securely and responsibly returning results. We are honored to provide the technological backbone — software and services including our genetic counseling program — to extend the reach of this groundbreaking effort across all 50 states and showcase a scalable model for the integration of genomics into public health.” 

Color had previously received All of Us funding in collaboration with the Broad Institute and Harvard’s Laboratory of Molecular Medicine, Cambridge, Massachusetts, which together received one of the three All of Us genome center awards announced in September 2018. As centers prepare to begin genotyping and whole genome sequencing in coming months, participants will be able to decide whether to receive test results.