The federal government pledged to heavily fund a national genetic research initiative designed to spot the underpinnings of some of the most popular diseases. About $55 million will be awarded to hospitals and other research centers to help them study the DNA of more than 1 million volunteers across the U.S.
The project is part of a larger initiative fathered by the White House and known as “precision-medicine initiative.” Study participants will provide researchers with their complete genetic makeup to help them discover which genes can trigger which diseases.
The science is crucial to help drug makers develop better therapies that can fix the genetic code in their attempt to cure the diseases. The Obama administration said that the idea of therapies that focus on genetics is not new, but the idea behind precision medicine is unique.
Federal officials promised the initiative to be “unique and transformative.” The National Institutes of Health (NIH) chair Francis S. Collins, who is one of the promoters of the initiative, noted that the project will result in a database which will reflect the “rich diversity of America.”
Half of the info in the database will belong to American veterans, whose genetic portraits are already indexed by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The NIH will work with several universities and hospitals including the Chicago’s Northwestern University and University of Chicago, Columbia University in New York, and University of Arizona, Tucson.
Each university will partner with medical research centers and hospitals in their states. For instance, Columbia University will team up with Harlem Hospital and Weill Cornell Medical College, while the two universities in Chicago will join forces with Alliance of Chicago Community Health Services LLC, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, and University of Illinois at Chicago.
Backers of the initiative said that the hospitals and universities were picked to ensure that ethnic, racial, geographic and economic profiles of study participants reflected America’s realities.
Universities and hospitals are currently designing research protocols and ways to promote the initiative and attract new patients. According to the NIH, anyone who wishes to take part in the initiative can do it through their smartphones, electronic devices or call centers.
The Food and Drug Administration will also take part in the federal initiative. The agency recently announced that it was seeking ways to simplify the procedures of approving new complex diagnostic tests known as next-generation-sequencing.
The tests will allow health care providers find what precision-medicine treatments work for what people.
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