By: Zen Vuong
Keck School of Medicine of USC and nationwide partners are launching a landmark $1.5 billion National Institutes of Health-led program that seeks to accelerate the development of precision medicine. One of the project’s priorities is to achieve a demographically, geographically and medically diverse community of participants, especially by including those who are underrepresented in biomedical research.
The Keck School of Medicine is critical to the effort: The county of Los Angeles is one of the most ethnically diverse in the United States. Communities that traditionally have been excluded from research will be included, said Daniella Meeker, the project’s USC principal investigator and assistant professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine.
“USC is uniquely positioned to help the team achieve its diversity goals,” said Meeker, a researcher at the USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics. “This initiative will inform the way that health care and precision medicine is created in the future. It’s like the human genome project but for the entire American population.”
The All of Us Research Program
opens for enrollment on May 6. Led by the National Institutes of Health
, All of Us is an unprecedented effort to gather genetic, biological, environmental, health and lifestyle data from 1 million or more volunteer participants living in the United States.
Unlike research studies that are focused on a specific disease or population, All of Us will serve as a national research resource to inform thousands of studies. It will cover a wide variety of health conditions. Researchers will be able to access data from the program to learn more about how individual differences in lifestyle, environment and biological makeup can influence health and disease. Participants will be able to access their own health information, summary data about the entire participant community, and information about studies and findings that come from All of Us.
Seeking medical breakthroughs
New biomedical breakthroughs can become reality by unraveling the role individual genetic differences play in human health and disease, said David W. Craig, co-director of the Institute of Translational Genomics at the Keck School of Medicine.
“However, the impact and reach of biomedical breakthroughs depend on the diversity of research participants, their cultures and their numbers,” Craig said. “The Keck School of Medicine of USC is primed to help lead clinical translational research programs such as All of Us because Southern California is a great melting pot of diversity.”
In California, the All of Us Research Program is implemented by the California Precision Medicine Consortium, which is co-led by Lucila Ohno-Machado at the University of California, San Diego Health and Hoda Anton-Culver at University of California, Irvine Health. Other integral collaborators are the Keck School of Medicine of USC; University of California, Davis; University of California, San Francisco; Cedars-Sinai Medical Center; and the San Diego Blood Bank.
Congress has authorized $1.5 billion over 10 years for All of Us. More than 27,000 people nationwide have already joined the program as part of a yearlong beta testing phase that helped shape the participant experience.
“The time is now to transform how we conduct research — with participants as partners — to shed new light on how to stay healthy and manage disease in more personalized ways,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins. “This is what we can accomplish through All of Us.”
How to participate
• Learn more about the All of Us Research Program, including how to join, by visiting JoinAllofUs.org
• Participants are asked to share different types of health and lifestyle information, including through online surveys and electronic health records, which will continue to be collected over the course of the program.
• At different times over the coming months and years, participants may be asked to share physical measurements and provide blood and urine samples. In Los Angeles, that may take place at two Keck Medical Center of USC sites: the Medical Plaza Pharmacy and the Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute.
To ensure that the program gathers information from all types of people, especially those who have been underrepresented in research, not everyone will be asked to give physical measures and samples. In the future, participants may be invited to share data through wearable devices and to join follow-up research studies, including clinical trials. In future phases of the program, children will be able to enroll, and the program will add more data types, such as genetic data.
Data from the program will be broadly accessible for research purposes. Ultimately, the All of Us Research Program will be a rich and open-data resource for traditional academic researchers as well as citizen scientists — and everyone in between.
The Southern California Clinical and Translational Science Institute at USC is supporting the project through staffing, participant recruitment, informatics and communications. The USC Gehr Family Center for Health Systems Science and USC School of Pharmacy are also collaborating on the project. Afsaneh Barzi at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center is collaborating on the project.
All of Us is a registered service mark of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.