The National Institute of Health recently launched a nationwide data project seeking at least one million American volunteer participants. NIH partnered with the USC Keck School of Medicine and several other organizations for the $1.5 billion All of Us Research Program, which seeks to enhance health research breakthroughs and discoveries.
Daniella Meeker, assistant professor of preventive medicine and director of Clinical Research Informatics, is the program’s principal investigator. Meeker emphasized how USC plays a particularly important role in this project because of its location in Los Angeles County, one of the most ethnically diverse communities in the country.
“USC is uniquely positioned to help the team achieve its diversity goals,” Meeker said in a USC press release. “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.”
A diverse participant pool is the NIH’s priority for this project, potentially establishing the largest DNA and health database for medical research in the world. By studying people from a wide variety of backgrounds, researchers will be able to gather biological, genetic, environmental and lifestyle information, especially from populations typically underrepresented in medical research. This will help with preventing and treating a multitude of diseases.
“The All of Us Research Program is an opportunity for individuals from all walks of life to be represented in research and pioneer the next era of medicine,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins. in an NIH press release. “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.
Since participant enrollment opened on May 6, tens of thousands of volunteers have already signed up. The program asks participants to fill out health surveys and to share electronic health records online. The website details how it plans to protect participant data and explains how being a part of the study can directly benefit both parties by helping the participant learn more about their own health.
“The All of Us Research Program is part of the Precision Medicine Initiative,” the program’s website states. “Precision medicine is health care that is based on you as an individual. It takes into account factors like where you live, what you do, and your family health history.”
In addition to Keck, the USC Gehr Family Center for Health Systems Science and USC School of Pharmacy will also contribute to the project.