All of Us
One year after assuming the regional leadership role in the National Institutes of Health’s groundbreaking All of Us Research Program, the Miller School of Medicine is making impressive progress toward its goal of assembling the genetic profiles of 40,000 South Floridians.
by Maya Bell
Photo Illustration by Lisa Kuehnle
The $2 billion-plus, five-year initiative — the largest and most ambitious ever undertaken by the NIH — is gathering data from more than one million people living in the United States to help researchers deliver on the promise of precision medicine. By accounting for differences in biology, lifestyle and environment, researchers will have the tools to tailor treatments for given conditions and populations, particularly minorities who have long been left out of such research.
“There has never been an effort like this before,” said Stephan Züchner, M.D., Ph.D., who chairs the Miller School’s Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation Department of Human Genetics and co-directs the John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics. “This study will begin to collect the data that will enable us to begin fine-tuning the therapies for specific health issues and specific populations.”
Thanks to the Miller School’s expertise in genetics and genomics and its location in one of the most ethnically diverse counties in the nation, it was selected as the lead partner in the SouthEast Enrollment Center, which seeks to enroll about 100,000 subjects in Florida and Georgia. Dr. Züchner is the lead principal investigator for the SEEC.
Currently, “we lack the statistical power to make the fine-grained predictions about how a given treatment will affect a given individual,” said UM’s second SEEC PI, Margaret Pericak-Vance, Ph.D., the Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation Professor of Human Genetics, director of the John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics and executive vice chair of the Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation Department of Human Genetics.
“The idea is to widen who gets to participate in and benefit from biomedical research, which is an ethical imperative,” said Rosario Isasi, J.D., M.P.H., a research assistant professor at the Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation Department of Human Genetics and a co-investigator leading the ethical and regulatory aspects of the SEEC. To date, the SEEC consortium has enrolled more than 13,000 people, of whom 40% are black and one-quarter are Hispanic.
Olveen Carrasquillo, M.D., M.P.H., professor of medicine and public health sciences, who is a national expert in minority health and a principal investigator in the project, added, “The large number of minorities being enrolled into this national cohort will help ensure that the findings being generated by the study are applicable to all persons living in the United States.”