West Michigan residents will have the chance to get involved in a landmark national precision medicine study, as Spectrum Health joins the institutions conducting the research.
The Precision Medicine Initiative, launched by President Obama in his State of the Union address in 2015, aims to gather health data from 1 million Americans.
The information will fuel research aimed at understanding individual health needs and tailoring treatment and prevention plans based on lifestyle, environment and genetics.
The National Institutes of Health on Thursday, Oct. 13, announced awards to four regional medical center groups that will implement the Precision Medicine Initiative Cohort program. The groups will receive $5.5 million to begin recruitment of patients and to build infrastructure.
We are asking participants to remain engaged so the study data can better understand what makes some people maintain their health while others struggle with chronic disease, despite similar lifestyle and genetic attributes.
One of the four groups, the Trans-American Consortium for the Health Care Systems Research Network, is led by Henry Ford Health System in Detroit. Its partners include Spectrum Health, Baylor Scott and White Research Institute in Dallas, Essentia Health in Duluth, Minnesota, and the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, Massachusetts.
“We’re so pleased that Spectrum Health can bring the people of West Michigan a chance to participate in this important NIH study,” said Steve Heacock, senior vice president of Spectrum Health. “This award acknowledges our dedication to excellence in clinical research and our commitment to delivering innovative care.”
“Precision medicine aims to treat each person based on individual differences in lifestyle, environment, genetics and will have a dramatic impact on how Spectrum Health cares for patients in the future, said Christopher Chambers, MD, PhD, vice president of research.
Because of Spectrum Health’s involvement, West Michigan residents can take part in the initiative close to home, said Dave Chesla, PA, ASCP, the manager of Spectrum Health’s Universal Biorepository.
Researchers aim to enroll 2,500 patients at Spectrum Health locations in 2017. The dates and locations have not yet been chosen.
Participants provide blood and urine samples and allow access to their electronic medical records. They also fill out a questionnaire asking their age, height, weight and gender as well as a wide range of lifestyle factors, such as exercise patterns, diet, access to health care and socioeconomic status.
Privacy and security safeguards will protect individual participants’ data, the NIH says.
The study will follow patients for at least five years. They may report updates on smartphone apps or use wearable devices, such as a Fitbit, to track activity levels.
“This initiative is focused on the front end of health care, at the level of maintaining individual wellness. We are asking participants to remain engaged so the study data can better understand what makes some people maintain their health while others struggle with chronic disease, despite similar lifestyle and genetic attributes,” Chesla said.
“This work is focused on the four P’s of precision medicine—preventive, predictive, participatory and personalized.”
Participants have the opportunity to take part in foundational research that will have long-range impacts, he added. The information gleaned from the study could help shift the focus of health care from treating illness to preventing it through lifestyle changes.
“It is being part of a pretty cool group,” Chesla said. “You are one of 1 million that are doing this. And you can do it in Grand Rapids, Michigan.”
The program aims to provide a national resource for researchers, including citizen scientists, to study health conditions, the NIH says.
The three other regional medical center groups added to the initiative Thursday are the California Precision Medicine Consortium, Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania and the New England Precision Medicine Consortium.
Already named to the program are Columbia University Medical Center in New York, Illinois Precision Medicine Consortium, the University of Arizona, the University of Pittsburgh, six community health centers and the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Centers.
“We want this program to be open to everyone across the United States,” said Eric Dishman, director of the NIH program. “We’re making a concerted effort to include people from all communities and walks of life, to make sure that the knowledge we gain benefits everyone.”