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Biotechnology and health

This year, the US government plans to start collecting genetic data from 1 million people

The National Institutes of Health said today that it’s launching a huge research study with the aim of making precision medicine available to people of all backgrounds.

Background: President Obama first announced the program back in 2015 to realize the dream of precision medicine—that is, tailoring health care to an individual’s genetics, lifestyle, and environment. It’s been in beta testing for the past year, and so far about 25,000 participants have joined. 

Diverse data: In a briefing with reporters, NIH officials said they are focusing on gathering health and genetic data from diverse and historically underrepresented groups—including ethnic and sexual minorities, as well as people with disabilities, with less than a high school education, and with income below the poverty level. NIH is hosting events in diverse communities around the country to sign people up.

Next steps: Dubbed All of Us, the program will begin sequencing participants’ genomes later this year. The goal is to enroll a million participants who will share health information about themselves, through means including surveys and electronic health records, with researchers over the 10 years of the program.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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