The Vanderbilt University Medical Center will receive  $71.6 million from government funding to build a new heath center in Nashville focused on gathering genome data. This is part of a federal research project to develop tailored medical treatments, called Precision Medicine Initiative Cohort Program. The $71.6 million represents the largest grant the National Institutes of Health has ever received.

Aiming to develop a more accurate and precise medicine, Obama’s administration is giving a  five-year grant to  Vanderbilt University Medical (VUMC), an institution that has studied genome and personalized medicine programs for the last 20 years.

The $71.6 million grant will facilitate the VUMC to build a new health center in Nashville mainly focused on gathering genome data. Image Credit: BABW
The $71.6 million grant will facilitate the VUMC to build a new health center in Nashville mainly focused on gathering genome data. Image Credit: BABW

The VUMC’s department of biomedical informatics will be essential to develop the government’s precision medicine program, whose goal is to offer individualized treatments for common diseases illnesses to rare cancers.  With this grant, the VUMC will be home to the Data and Research Support Center under the federal precision medicine program.

Precision medicine will help save lives, says Jeff Balser

President and CEO of VUMC Dr. Jeff Balser stated that this is a great opportunity for the VUMC because it would be “a hub for the burgeoning personalized medicine industry.”

Balser said that VUMC’s researchers would be searching for insights on how a person unique genetic code, combined with environmental exposures,  reacts to medicine. To do so, the Mayo Clinic will be storing DNA from patients in centers across the United States. Then, the data from the samples will be analyzed by  VUCM.

To collect as many data as possible, the  VUMC will also work with some other health institutions like Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, Mass., Columbia University Medical Center, the University Of Michigan School Of Public Health, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and the University Of Texas School Of Bioinformatics.

Balser expects that precision medicine could eventually move from treating cancer to helping doctors find better treatment for diabetes, depression, heart disease and more. He said precision medicine would help save lives.

This center will also be supported by Verily Life Sciences, a subsidiary of Alphabet, the parent company of Google.

 55 million will be given to hospitals and enterprises that began research in genetic makeup

Since precision medicine has been used in oncology to give patients tailoring treatments that could improve their life expectancies, the federal government, and other health centers believe that simple procedure could also be useful to treat other diseases better. In this sense, Obama’s administration is undertaking a database that will map the genome of 1 million Americans. The precision medicine initiative was announced in Obama’s 2015 State of the Union address.

“The National Institutes of Health is making major investments in partnerships across the country, including with the Broad Institute in Cambridge, to gather data that could lead to lifesaving discoveries. Building in strong privacy and security protections from the start, NIH is teaming up with regional health care providers and community-based health clinics to sign up a million or more volunteers from all walks of life,”  said Balser.

To achieve the White House’s “precision medicine initiative.” The Obama administration will grant $55 million to hospitals and health centers that want to join the national research into the DNA database of a million or more Americans.

The primary goal is not only to understand what genes are linked to certain diseases but also to develop medicines and treatments that can cure them. Francis S. Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health and a prime mover in the national endeavor, believes the national precision medicine cohort will be unique and transformative because its database will show how prosperous America is in diversity.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has already a project including veterans’ assembled genomic makeups database.

Hospitals like Columbia University in New York, alongside  Weill Cornell Medical College and Harlem Hospital; Northwestern University in Chicago, in partnership with the University of Chicago, the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and some others hospitals are undertaking research protocols to encourage patients to participate in the national health initiative. According to NIH,  patients can also participate in the research contacting the hospitals on their computers, smartphones or call center.

Four universities have been chosen by NIH to carry out the national genome research. They are Alliance of Chicago Community Health Services LLC and the University of Illinois at Chicago, the University of Arizona, Tucson, in partnership with Banner Health and the University of Pittsburgh.

As for President Obama, this new initiative will make a significant change in the lives of Americans.

“Precision medicine gives us the chance to marry what’s unique about America — our spirit of innovation, our courage to take risks, our collaborative instincts – with what’s unique about Americans – every individual’s distinctive genetic makeup, lifestyles, and health needs. In doing so, we can keep ourselves, our families, and our nation healthier for generations to come”he said.