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Precision Medicine News

Precision Medicine Initiative Grows through Grant Funding

Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the University of Arizona Health Sciences in partnership with Banner Health have received funding to help promote Precision Medicine Initiative research.

By Sara Heath

The Precision Medicine Initiative has been making headlines as several research hospitals and healthcare experts have received development funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).


Late last week, both Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) and the University of Arizona Health Sciences in partnership with Banner Health announced NIH funding totaling millions of dollars over the next five years.

At VUMC, researchers will receive a total of $71.6 million over the next five years, a press release says.

Through its role as a Data and Research Support Center, VUMC researchers will seek to answer some of the questions posed in PMI, including those surrounding a patient’s unique genetic makeup and how that leads them to suffer from certain health conditions.

“We are honored to be selected to play a foundational role in a program that promises to drive innovation in precision medicine for decades to come. At Vanderbilt, we believe that understanding each person’s unique nature is essential to their care,” said Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, President and CEO of VUMC, and Dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

READ MORE: NIH to Bring Precision Medicine Data Collection to Patient Homes

“The Precision Medicine Initiative gives urgency to our shared goal of making patient care far more personal; unlocking the key intelligence we need to tailor diagnosis and treatment for the genetic and environmental features of every individual,” he continued.

“Moreover, this competitive grant, the largest in our history, will generate substantial economic impact for Tennessee, while firmly anchoring Vanderbilt and Nashville as a national hub for personalized medicine.”

Vanderbilt’s Josh Denny, MD, MS, associate professor of biomedical informatics and medicine will direct the Data and Research Support Center, focusing on collecting a broad array of patient data to help contribute to precision medicine projects.

“I believe the new PMI will positively impact all of health care — and individual health — like nothing else ever has before,” Denny said. “In the PMI we will launch a new paradigm of research that puts participants in the center of biomedical discovery and we will do it efficiently, at massive scale, with the goal of supporting the translation of data to discovery as fast as possible.”

This work on the PMI will continue across the country at different research facilities, like at the University of Arizona.

READ MORE: FHIR Can Move Genomics from Prediction to Precision Medicine

Through a $43.3 million five-year grant, the research facility will take part in the Precision Medicine Initiative Cohort Program, which aims to enroll over one million patients to help determine treatment protocol according to individual lifestyles, environmental needs, and genetic makeups.

UA and Banner Health present a unique opportunity due to the volume of their diverse populations. With the American Indian/Alaska Native and Hispanic/Latino patients the hospital serves, UA and Banner Health will likely be able to contribute vast amounts of data regarding minority patients.

"Our state and the diversity of the population we serve are unique and we are committed to participating in this initiative to make it a huge success," said Dr. Joe G.N. "Skip" Garcia, the UA's senior vice president for health sciences, in a press release.

Garcia said UA and Banner Health are also able to include a considerable amount of patients because of the breadth of their services across the region.

"With the leadership team we have assembled, we have the expertise in all relevant areas to fill the needs of the Precision Medicine Initiative Cohort Program – from large clinical studies to drug discovery to genetic and genomic science to informatics and data analytics,” Garcia said.

READ MORE: ONC Highlights Its Precision Medicine Initiative Collaborations

“Through our partnership with Banner Health in this initiative, we will be extending that expertise statewide and throughout the region, advancing precision health research and clinical care toward improving the health of Arizona and beyond.”

Other organizations are also helping to develop the tools and competencies required to bring the PMI to life.   This week, the American Heart Association announced a partnership  with cloud computing infrastructure provider Amazon Web Services for research in cardiovascular medicine.

By using the AHA’s vast stores of research data and Amazon Web Services’ cloud computing software, researchers hope to advance precision cardiovascular medicine to improve quality of life for heart disease patients.

“The promise of precision cardiovascular medicine and care can be realized when research and technology come together to deliver new insights,” said AHA CEO Nancy Brown.

“The AHA and AWS collaboration will unite the global research community to accelerate discovery in cardiovascular health and usher in a new era of tailored prevention and treatment that will help patients and lessen the global burden of cardiovascular disease.”

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