Precision medicine has been a buzzword in health care circles for years – but now the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is poised to launch a major new research effort that will help make this vision a reality. The All of Us Research Program seeks to enroll 1 million or more participants who will share their health information – linked with samples – marking what could be a new era in medical research and treatment.
The MGH will be a part of this effort as a member of the All of Us Research Program’s New England site, led by Partners HealthCare and its founding hospitals, the MGH and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Boston Medical Center also is a participant in All of Us in New England.
“Together we can help usher in new and better understandings of ways to prevent and treat disease,” says Peter L. Slavin, MD, MGH president, who is a participant in the program. “This is another great clinical opportunity to help build a research database that may help discover new cures.”
A core value of the All of Us Research Program’s effort is to enroll and engage participants from diverse communities and groups that have been historically underrepresented in research. Achieving these goals will require significant effort to build trust, overcome barriers and work with participants as true partners in research.
At the MGH, the All of Us Research Program is led by Jordan Smoller, MD, PI/project leader and director of the MGH Psychiatric and Neurodevelopmental Genetics Unit, and Shawn Murphy, MD, PhD, of the MGH Department of Neurology and Partners chief research information officer. All of Us engagement, communication and retention activities at the MGH are led by Susan Edgman-Levitan, PA, executive director of the John D. Stoeckle Center for Primary Care Innovation, and Dean Xerras, MD, medical director of the MGH Chelsea HealthCare Center.
Xerras is especially interested in getting the hospital’s community health centers and patients involved in research. “Increasing access to participate in medical research is an important goal for MGH Chelsea,” says Xerras. “By participating in the All of Us Research Program, we hope to further improve the health and well-being of our Chelsea community.”
The All of Us Research Program is not one single study, it will be a database linked to samples that researchers can use to run thousands of health studies. The data collected can be used by any researcher in the United States and around the world, following strict privacy and security rules.
“All of Us is groundbreaking not only for the data that will be provided to researchers but also for including participants as partners in every step of the program,” says Smoller. “It is our hope that research conducted on a scale this size could help revolutionize medicine, and an important piece of that is making sure the communities we’re partnering with feel welcomed and heard from along the way.”
To learn more about the All of Us Research Program – including what it means to be a participant – visit www.allofusNewEngland.org or visit an All of Us table by the Eat Street Café March 12 and March 16 or by Coffee Central March 13, 14 or 15 from 9 am - 4 pm.
This article was originally published in the 03/09/18 Hotline issue.