UIC to enroll participants in president’s Precision Medicine Initiative

The University of Illinois at Chicago, Northwestern University, the University of Chicago and their affiliated hospitals and clinics have been selected to enroll 150,000 Illinoisans in the national Precision Medicine Initiative Cohort Program. The Illinois consortium is one of several such groups across the nation that will help bring one million or more U.S. participants over the next five years into a research effort to improve the prevention and treatment of disease based on individual differences in lifestyle, environment and genetics.

The Illinois Precision Medicine Initiative Cohort Program consortium will receive $4.3 million in fiscal year 2016 and a total of approximately $45 million over 5 years pending progress and availability of funds from the National Institutes of Health to meet its participant enrollment goal.

The Precision Medicine Initiative, announced by President Obama in his 2015 State of the Union address, launched in 2016 with a $215 million budget. It aims to enable a new era of medicine in which researchers, providers and research participants work together to develop individualized care.

Most prevention strategies and medical treatments are designed for the average patient. This one-size-fits-all approach means that strategies to stay healthy and treatments for illnesses are successful for some people, but not others.

Precision medicine is an emerging approach for disease treatment and prevention that takes into account individual variability in genes, environment and lifestyle for each person. While some advances in precision medicine have been made, the practice is not currently commonplace.

“Illinois, as just a single state, very closely resembles the rest of the U.S. combined because we have such diversity in terms of our populations and types of communities,” says Dr. Robert Winn, associate vice chancellor for community based practice at the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System, director of the University of Illinois Cancer Center and a principal investigator on the grant.

Dr. Robert Barish, vice chancellor for health affairs at UIC, says that “for precision medicine to work for everyone, we need to know how prevention strategies, medicines and therapies work in a broad range of populations. With UIC’s unique ability to reach diverse communities through our clinics throughout Chicago, and through our regional College of Medicine campus in Peoria, we are well-positioned to help answer the questions that will help bring precision medicine to everyone.”

UI Health’s 13 Mile Square Health Centers are federally qualified neighborhood clinics located in some of Chicago’s most underserved communities, said Winn.

“Our Mile Square Health Centers reach into communities that carry an exceptionally heavy burden of disease,” said Winn, noting they serve African-American neighborhoods on the city’s south and west sides where cancer, diabetes, heart disease and asthma rates can be more than twice as high as in other populations.

Volunteer participants in the Precision Medicine Initiative Cohort Program will be asked to contribute a wide range of health, environment and lifestyle information. The participants will also answer questions about their health history and status, share their genomic and other biological information through simple blood and urine tests, and grant access to their clinical data from electronic health records. In addition, mobile health devices and apps will provide lifestyle data and environmental exposures in real time. All this will be accomplished with essential privacy and security safeguards. As partners in the research, participants will have ongoing input into study design and implementation, as well as access to a wide range of their individual and aggregated study results.

The knowledge gained from the Precision Medicine Initiative Cohort Program will extend the success of precision medicine in some cancers to many other diseases. Importantly, the program will focus not just on disease, but also on ways to increase an individual’s chances of remaining healthy throughout life.

“The range of information at the scale of one million people from all walks of life will be an unprecedented resource for researchers working to understand all of the factors that influence health and disease,” said NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins.

Dr. Martha Daviglus and Denise Hynes of the UIC College of Medicine are co-principal investigators on the grant. Dr. Jerry Krishnan, Maria Argos, Dr. Frederick Behm, Dr. Ben Gerber, Timothy Johnson, Robin Mermelstein, Dr. Terry Vanden Hoek and Karriem Watson of the UIC College of Medicine and Marcelo Bento Soares of the University of Illinois at Peoria College of Medicine are co-investigators on the grant.

UIC will coordinate efforts to enroll individuals at UI Hospital; Mile Square Health Center; University of Illinois at Peoria College of Medicine; Southern Illinois University Healthcare; Memorial Medical Center, Springfield; Blessing Health System, Quincy; Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center, Matoon; OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, Peoria; Cook County Health and Hospitals System; and Mount Sinai Hospital, Chicago.

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