White House, NIH Announce Progress in Precision Medicine Projects

The White House and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced that enrollment of volunteers into the Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI) Cohort Program has begun. The PMI Cohort program is a long-term health study that will examine genetics, lifestyle factors, and health in an effort to propel precision medicine and identify cures. The PMI Cohort Program is one of several pilot projects announced recently by the NIH, and the largest component of the PMI.

The NIH wants to enroll the first cohort of 79,000 participants into the precision medicine database by the end of 2016, with a projected total enrollment of 1 million participants by 2019. The NIH provided funding to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, to perform a pilot study of direct recruitment initiatives, including a participant website and phone line. Verily, a Google subsidy, will provide technical help on this project. The NIH also pledged to work with federally funded community health centers to encourage cohort volunteers from underserved populations.

“For most of history, medicine has been based on trying to identify what works for the average person,” said Francis Collins, MD, PhD, the director of the NIH, in a press conference. “We’re all different. This one-size-fits-all approach is far from optimal.”

The goal of the PMI Cohort Program and recruitment initiatives is to “empower any person, anywhere in the United States, to raise their hand and volunteer to participate.”

This program is projected to cost more than $1 billion for the first four years.

Sources: NIH press release, February 25, 2016; Science, “NIH’s 1-million-volunteer precision medicine study announces first pilot projects,” February 25, 2016.