VUMC’s Denny selected to lead national ‘All of Us’ programDec. 11, 2019, 2:42 PM
by Bill Snyder
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has selected Joshua Denny, MD, MS, vice president of Personalized Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, to be the chief executive officer of the federal All of Us Research Program.
All of Us is a landmark study that aims to partner with one million participants to accelerate understanding, treatment and prevention of disease in ways that will impact everyone. Denny will succeed current All of Us Director Eric Dishman, who will become the program’s chief innovation officer.
Denny currently is principal investigator for the VUMC-based All of Us Data and Research Center (DRC), which acquires, organizes and provides secure access to what will be the world’s largest and most diverse dataset for precision medicine research.
While he will relocate to the NIH in Bethesda, Maryland, for this new role, the DRC will remain at VUMC and Denny will retain an adjunct Vanderbilt faculty status.
“Josh’s contributions have been integral to the program from the start,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, in a statement released today. “As a physician scientist, he is deeply committed to improving patient care through the advancement of precision medicine. He will bring tremendous knowledge and passion to his new role.”
“I’m incredibly proud that Dr. Denny has been selected by Dr. Collins and the NIH for the leadership role in All of Us,” said Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, President and CEO of Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. “Josh has already made enormous contributions to the field and to All of Us, and he is the right person to lead this historic effort.”
“All of Us offers the once-in-a-generation potential to radically accelerate our biomedical knowledge and improve health for everyone, worldwide,” Denny said. “I’m thrilled to be a part of it. I’m grateful to Vanderbilt and my incredible colleagues for preparing me for this opportunity.”
Denny, a professor in the Departments of Biomedical Informatics and Medicine and director of the Center for Precision Medicine at VUMC, has been involved with the All of Us program since it was established by the NIH in 2015.
“Josh and I have worked together for the last 10 years and I have come to understand that his success reflects his talents in multiple areas — as a clinician, an informaticist and thought leader,” said Dan Roden, MD, Senior Vice President for Personalized Medicine at VUMC. “All of Us could not have chosen a better CEO and I look forward to continuing to work with him on this exciting program.”
“Josh’s commitment to All of Us has been an inspiration to the department,” added Kevin Johnson, MD, MS, professor and chairman of the Department of Biomedical Informatics. “We’re excited that his efforts have culminated in this adventure for Josh, his wife and their kids. I look forward to watching Josh blossom as a national spokesperson and leader for this important initiative.”
As of Dec. 5, more than 300,000 people had enrolled at JoinAllofUs.org, including more than 233,000 who have agreed to share their electronic health records, completed health surveys, provided physical measurements and donated biospecimens. More than 80% of these participants are from groups that have been historically underrepresented in biomedical research.
Denny first came to Vanderbilt as a college freshman in 1994, earning a bachelor’s degree in Molecular Biology, followed by a medical degree and a master’s degree in Biomedical Informatics. He joined the Vanderbilt faculty in 2007 and his medical specialty is internal medicine.
A primary interest of his lab has been development of the phenome-wide association study (PheWAS) method applied to the electronic health record.
The phenome of an individual describes physical and behavioral characteristics determined by the interaction of his or her genes and the environment. The goal is to use this so-called “phenome scan” to help identify and predict disease risk and drug response.
Denny is a principal investigator for the VUMC sites in the national Electronic Medical Records and Genomics (eMERGE) Network, Pharmacogenomics Research Network (PGRN) and the Implementing Genomics into Practice (IGNITE) Network.
He helped launch VUMC’s Pharmacogenomic Resource for Enhanced Decisions in Care & Treatment (PREDICT) initiative, which provides physicians with the information they need to anticipate and prevent adverse drug reactions or lack of effectiveness based on their patients’ genetic make-up.
Denny serves on several local committees and remains active in teaching medical and informatics students. He is a recipient of the Vanderbilt Chancellor Award for Research, the Homer Warner Award from the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) and the AMIA New Investigator Award.
He has been elected into the National Academy of Medicine, the American College of Medical Informatics, and the American Society for Clinical Investigation.