November 4, 2010

Vanderbilt’s BioVU reaches new milestone

Vanderbilt’s BioVU reaches new milestone

This week BioVU, Vanderbilt University's repository of human DNA, reached another significant milestone — it now contains more than 100,000 specific samples.

This makes the databank one of the nation's most comprehensive collections of human DNA that is linked to searchable, electronic health information.

With more than 500 samples being added every day, BioVU is a key component in a number of large NIH-funded projects that are helping define the new field of personalized medicine at Vanderbilt and nationally.

“One great hope of the Human Genome Project is to understand why patients vary in their susceptibility to disease or response to drugs,” said Dan Roden, M.D., assistant vice chancellor for Personalized Medicine and principal investigator for BioVU. “The size of BioVU is allowing us to get at some of those questions.”

One project is the Vanderbilt Electronic Systems for Pharmacogenomic Assessment (VESPA), which is testing how variations in patients' DNA predicts their responses to certain medications.

VESPA results helped put in place the PREDICT project, in which genetic information on drug responses is being placed in patient records.

Planning for Vanderbilt's DNA data banking effort was launched in 2004 with the objective of collecting human DNA from blood samples leftover from clinical care. Sample collection began in 2007.

The program is supported by tools created by VUMC's Department of Biomedical Informatics that combine the fields of genomics, informatics and personalized medicine.

Prior to the launch of BioVU, a highly sophisticated computer algorithm was built by the Department of Biomedical Informatics so that each patient's medical record is “de-identified,” scrubbed of specific identifying information as it is processed so the patient's privacy is protected.

That way, the DNA samples collected by BioVU can remain linked to clinical information, and individual patient privacy is protected.

Access to BioVU was opened to VU investigators in January 2010, and more than 20 individual research projects are now under way.

“This resource provides a wonderful new set of tools to our investigators to start to understand the role of genetic variation in many different clinical settings,” Roden said. “I see Vanderbilt as the national go-to place for this kind of research.”

Other BioVU milestones:

• July — the SmaRTStore opens. New $1 million robotic system that can store and handle up to 400,000 genetic samples;

• October 2009 — VU receives $6.4 million “Grand Opportunities” stimulus grant to launch the Vanderbilt Electronic Systems for Pharmacogenomic Assessment (VESPA) study;

• September 2009 — BioVU program expands to include pediatric DNA samples.