Massachusetts General Hospital was recently awarded a highly competitive grant to lead a local consortium of health care providers that will be enrolling patients into the National Institutes of Health's All of Us Research Program.

Why do some patients with depression respond better to psychiatric medicine than others?

What makes one 35-year-old woman more likely to develop breast cancer than another woman of a similar age and medical history?

Can we identify individuals at risk of developing heart disease early on and take steps to prevent it from happening?

These questions—and many more like them—are among those posed by precision medicine, an emerging approach to medical research and disease treatment that takes into account a person’s genetic and molecular profile, along with environmental and lifestyle factors.

Massachusetts General Hospital is poised to play a key role in the future of precision medicine as part of the National Institutes of Health’s Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI).

The PMI’s All of Us Research Program is a national initiative with a goal of building a cohort of one million or more volunteer participants who reflect the diversity of America.

The cohort will include participants from a full range of ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds and health conditions. This study, the largest of its kind ever attempted, will gather an array of data including electronic health records, surveys, mobile sensors, environmental data, and biospecimens to advance the future of precision medicine for years to come.

The hospital was recently awarded a highly competitive grant to lead a New England Precision Medicine Consortium that will be enrolling patients for the All of Us Research Program.

The consortium includes Mass General, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, McLean Hospital and Mass General Brigham or hospital-affiliated community health centers, along with Boston University, Boston Medical Center, and its community health centers. The consortium will enroll 10,000 participants in the first year of the program, and, if funded for additional years, may enroll up to 150,000.

The potential for improving healthcare is through precision medicine is significant, including:

  • Reducing trial and error in medication dosage
  • Improving the accuracy of clinical diagnosis
  • Saving on prescription costs by eliminating unnecessary drugs
  • Boosting the use of regenerative medicine
  • Refining the use of antibiotics to discourage bacterial resistance

From a research perspective, the opportunities include the chance to identify new ways to treat and prevent disease, to learn why some patients respond better to some therapies, and to discover new biomarkers for disease that could help with treatment targets and drug development.

"At the institutional level, participating in the cohort program will give Mass General an integral role in the next generation of precision medicine research and clinical care", says Jordan Smoller, MD, ScD, co-director of the Mass General Brigham Biobank and a leader of the New England Precision Medicine Consortium.