Nationwide Effort To Personalize Medicine Kicks Off

'All Of Us' Research Program To Build Genetic Library

Hallway at a children's hospital
Keith Srakocic/AP Photo

A nationwide effort to better tailor medicine to patients’ needs kicks off Sunday. The All of Us Research Program will collect blood and urine samples from volunteers across the country to create a medical database of 1 million people.

Two Wisconsin medical schools — the University of Wisconsin Medical School and the Medical College of Wisconsin — and Marshfield Clinic are sharing a $5.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to recruit research participants.

“Medicine, by necessity, has been built by trying to identify what works for the average person. But we are all different. And one-size-fits-all is far from an optimal strategy,” explained Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.

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The goal is to have between 70 and 75 percent be people who have been under-represented in past research. The program wants a mix of rural and urban, race, ethnicity, gender, education, and physical and mental disabilities.

“So the nation needs to be bold. We need to bring precision medicine to more people and more conditions, especially those who have been left behind,” said Eric Dishman, director of All of Us.

Precision medicine is already used to provide targeted treatment for some cancers. Dishman had a rare form of kidney cancer. He was running out of options when his genome was sequenced, allowing for more individual cancer treatment.

“Could we do the same for diabetes which affects nearly 10 percent of Americans? Could we figure out the sub types of diabetes that could have different responses to intervention? Could we slow, or even stop, different types of dementia?” said Collins during a Tuesday teleconference previewing the start of nationwide enrollment Sunday.

There will be seven locations around the United States holding events to kick off the program. None are in Wisconsin; the closest locations are Chicago and Detroit.

People can enroll if they are 18 years old and older. They will be asked about their health and lifestyle through online surveys. More than 8,000 will be recruited around Wisconsin the first year of the NIH study.