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All of Us Research Program Takes Aim at Precision Population Health

Aug. 14, 2019, 4:01 PM


by Bill Snyder

Scarcely a year after its national launch, the “All of Us” research program, which aims to accelerate the prevention and treatment of disease, has enrolled more than 230,000 research participants — more than a fifth of its recruitment goal of 1 million people.

Joshua Denny, MD, MS
(photo by John Russell)

All of Us investigators including Joshua Denny, MD, MS, of Vanderbilt University Medical Center reported this week that more than 80% of participants are from groups that have been historically underrepresented in biomedical research.

“The All of Us data repository should permit researchers to take into account individual differences in lifestyle, socioeconomic factors, environment and biological characteristics in order to advance precision diagnosis, prevention and treatment,” they wrote in the current New England Journal of Medicine.

Denny, professor of Biomedical Informatics and Medicine in the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, is VUMC’s vice president of Personalized Medicine and one of three Primary Investigators for the All of Us Data and Research Center.

All of Us currently enrolls participants who are 18 years old and older from a network of 340 recruitment sites. As of Aug. 8, more than 182,000 core participants had contributed biospecimens, including DNA samples. Electronic health records had been collected from more than 112,000 participants.

At the current recruitment rate, about 3,100 core participants each week, “we expect to have enrolled 1 million core participants by approximately 2024,” the researchers predicted.

Advances in genomic analyses have helped to identify the underlying causes of disease in individual patients. However, these efforts have been hampered by inadequate sample size and lack of diversity among participants. The All of Us research program aims to provide these essential data.

“The inclusion of persons with a range of diseases will enable systematic studies of disease outcomes, medication effects and other therapeutic approaches across various environmental, social, genomic and economic contexts,” the authors wrote.

“Our hope is that identification of risk factors and biomarkers … will improve population health by bringing about more efficient and accurate diagnoses, screenings, a better understanding of diverse populations, more rational use of existing therapeutics and the development of new treatments,” they concluded.

In May, the Data and Research Center launched a new version of the research hub, which includes a public data browser, that lets users track some of the key stats about the program and get a first look at some of the breadth of the data it contains.

The processes for collecting, organizing and sharing big data securely were developed by researchers at VUMC working with Verily Life Sciences, a subsidiary of Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc. and with the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.

The other principal investigators of the Data and Research Center are David Glazer, engineering director at Verily Life Sciences, and Anthony Philippakis, MD, PhD, chief data officer at the Broad Institute.

More than 100 people from Vanderbilt and the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance have contributed to All of Us research program including Melissa Basford, MBA, Robert Carroll, PhD, Robert Cronin, MD, MS, Paul Harris, PhD, Brad Malin, PhD, Andrea Ramirez, MD, and Consuelo Wilkins, MD, MSCI.

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