Vanderbilt, working with Verily and Broad Institute, receives grant award from NIH Precision Medicine Initiative to drive data collection, storage, and analysis

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Precision Medicine Initiative Cohort Program has awarded a five-year grant to develop a data platform for collecting, curating, securely storing, and sharing a wide range of health data from a planned million volunteers. The Data and Research Support Center for the project will be led by Vanderbilt University School of Medicine working with Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Verily Life Sciences and other collaborators. Learn more about the project in a NIH news release and a Vanderbilt news release.

According to the NIH, the PMI Cohort Program will set the foundation for new ways of engaging people in research. PMI volunteers will be asked to contribute a wide range of health, environment and lifestyle information. They will also be invited to 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. The Program will feature strong privacy and security protections, as described in the PMI Data Security Policy Principles and Framework.

Critical for the program’s success is a secure, scalable, and intuitive data infrastructure that is accessible to a diverse community including researchers and citizen scientists. In support of this goal, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, working with Broad Institute and Verily Life Sciences will establish the Data and Research Support Center. This center will acquire, organize and provide secure access to what will be one of the world’s largest and most diverse datasets for precision medicine research. They will also provide research support for the scientific data and analysis tools for the program, helping to build a community of researchers from community colleges to top healthcare research institutions and industries, and including citizen scientists, who can propose studies using this information.

Broad Institute will help develop and deploy the program’s Data Core and Research Support Core. This will include:

  • Building a robust system to collect and store data from all sources in the PMI network
  • Enhancing and curating the stored data using machine learning and natural language processing approaches to improve the quality of participant-provided data for research, and
  • Creating an intuitive platform for researchers and citizen scientists to access and analyze the stored data using query and visualization tools.

Sekar Kathiresan, Director of the Broad’s Cardiovascular Disease Initiative and Co-Director of the Program in Medical and Population Genetics, will help lead the efforts at Broad.

“The fundamental causes of so many diseases are still unknown, and precision medicine is about finding these root causes and developing treatments that address these causes,” Kathiresan said. “At Broad we are thrilled to have the opportunity to develop a data infrastructure that will assemble, curate, store, and make openly available the data necessary to drive a new era of discovery in biomedicine.”

“Broad has a track record of generating, and securely sharing, storing and analyzing more than 10 petabytes of genomic data to drive countless discoveries,” he said. “We will build on this experience to construct the massive data input, storage, and analysis framework that will help make the Precision Medicine Initiative a success.”

Other collaborators include Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, the University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, and the University of Texas School of Bioinformatics in Houston.

Read more about the initiative in a Boston Globe op-ed by President Barack Obama