Moving with what has been cited as unprecedented speed, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has chosen a collaboration of four New York institutions — Weill Cornell Medicine, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia University Hospital and NYC Health + Hospitals/Harlem — to launch a landmark longitudinal research study as a part of President Barack Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI).
The PMI Cohort Program aims to collect health, lifestyle and genetic information from 1 million or more people in the United States in efforts to improve disease treatment and prevention.
This first ever study of its kind introduces a new way of engaging people in research, by inviting volunteers from diverse backgrounds to share their information through simple tests, and to allow access to their electronic health records. PMI volunteers will also be able to track their own lifestyle and environmental data via mobile health devices and apps. In efforts to continue to grow our collective knowledge base, the mass amounts of data generated from this largest prospective cohort study in the US will be available to all qualified researchers.
“The more we understand about individual differences, the better able we will be to effectively prevent and treat illness,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD.
Weill Cornell’s efforts will be led by Dr. Mark Rubin, director of the Englander Institute for Precision Medicine and the Homer T. Hirst III Professor of Oncology in Pathology at Weill Cornell Medicine, and associate director of precision medicine for the Meyer Cancer Center.
“As doctors and scientists, we are committed to providing our patients with the very best, most cutting-edge care to ensure that illness isn’t a barrier in their everyday lives,” Rubin said “This grant will enable us to detect and delineate the key genetic drivers of disease across the diverse population of patients we serve — and move us closer to fulfilling the promise of precision medicine.”
In addition to collecting participant data, health organizations involved in the PMI study will ensure that those enrolled represent a cross section of the geographic, ethnic, racial and socioeconomic diversity that exists in our nation. “This is an incredibly complex study requiring new kinds of strategic and operational partnerships — this can’t be business as usual,” said Kathy L. Hudson, Ph.D., NIH Deputy Director for Science, Outreach, and Policy who helped orchestrate the PMI Cohort Program. “We are excited to break new ground in engaging people in research and building a study of this scale and scope.”
“Cornell University has a distinguished legacy of leading scientific discoveries that address our greatest healthcare challenges,” said Hunter R. Rawlings III, interim president of Cornell University. “The launch of this collaboration marks a turning point in our effort to conquer disease and to translate research discoveries into life-changing impact for communities in New York and around the world.”
“Precision medicine has the power to fundamentally change the way we understand and treat some of the world’s most challenging diseases,” said Dr. Augustine M.K. Choi, interim dean of Weill Cornell Medicine. “This NIH grant, and our critical work with colleagues from Columbia, NYC Health + Hospitals/Harlem and NewYork-Presbyterian, will ensure that we are better able to understand the key genetic and other biological drivers of disease and ultimately improve the lives of our patients. We are incredibly honored to be selected for this grant, and grateful to President Obama and the NIH for their bold vision.”
“It’s an incredible honor for our physicians and researchers to be a part of this historic initiative,” said Dr. Steven J. Corwin, president and CEO of NewYork-Presbyterian. “As we delve into new research and discover new prevention and treatment options, this grant gives us a tremendous opportunity to continue to excel in our collective fight against cancer and all life-threatening diseases.”
“The ‘patient-powered’ research that will result from our partnership with CUMC promises to help transform the way we achieve our mission to deliver equitable and culturally responsive care to the city’s most vulnerable populations,” said Ram Raju, MD, President and CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals. “Our collaboration with CUMC also underscores the critical role that the public hospital system plays in medical education and cutting-edge research to benefit the communities we serve.”
“We are pleased and excited that the NIH has chosen the Columbia/Weill Cornell/NewYork-Presbyterian and Harlem Hospital collaboration as one of the partners in this ambitious and fundamentally important program,” said Tom Maniatis, PhD, Director of the Columbia/NewYork-Presbyterian Precision Medicine Initiative and co-founder of the New York Genome Center. Dr. Maniatis is also the Isidore S. Edelman Professor and Chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at CUMC. “This award is a validation of our commitment to realize the vision of precision medicine, which identifies relationships between genetic, lifestyle and environmental differences in individuals, and the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of human diseases. This grant also recognizes the successful establishment of the Institute for Genomic Medicine (IGM) at Columbia by its Director, Dr. David Goldstein, who has demonstrated the reality of a precision medicine-based approach to treating children with rare, previously undiagnosed genetic disorders.”
CUMC is one of four centers that have been designated as a regional PMI Cohort Program Healthcare Provider Organization (HPO). As an HPO, CUMC and its partners seek to enroll at least 150,000 volunteers by 2021. By engaging with a number of community organizations throughout New York City, this multicenter collaboration will help to ensure that participants in the PMI Cohort Program represent the geographic, ethnic, racial and socioeconomic diversity of the country that the NIH is hoping to achieve.