Geisinger’s MyCode Community Health initiative recently reached its goal of enrolling 100,000 participants, marking a major milestone for precision medicine. The news comes just months after the White House announced important pilot projects that move the President’s Precision Medicine Initiative towards its goal of enrolling one million participants.

Precision medicine is a relatively new approach to disease treatment and prevention that accounts for differences in an individual’s genes, lifestyle, and environment. A few years ago we would have called it “emerging,” but today it’s clear that precision medicine is very much here.

Take diseases like cancer as an example. Patients with breast, lung, and colorectal cancers now routinely undergo molecular testing as part of patient care. Knowing their genetic code enables physicians to select treatments that worked well for people with similar genes and medical histories, improving a patient’s chance of survival and reducing exposure to adverse effects.

The MyCode Community Health Initiative is the largest study in the United States to link health records to large-scale DNA sequencing data. Geisinger launched MyCode in collaboration with the Regeneron Genetics Center in 2014, with the goal of recruiting 100,000 study participants. But the program gained momentum much faster than expected and they reached their goal in just two years. In April, a press release set a new target at 250,000 participants.

MyCode began about a year before President Obama announced the federal Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI), allocating an initial $215 million for projects coordinated by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Initiative. The largest piece of the federal PMI is a one million-volunteer cohort study being rolled out this year through grants to health providers that will work to recruit participants.


MyCode® Community Health Initiative

A few of the first pilot studies were announced at a White House summit in February, including one to Vanderbilt University, which will pilot methods for recruiting about one-third of the participants directly. The study will be advised by Google’s Verily (former Google Life Sciences), which will work out ways for participants to sign-up directly through a website and phone line. In conjunction with the White House summit, more than 40 private-sector organizations announced commitments that will accelerate precision medicine in the United States.

Geisinger’s MyCode and the federal PMI will almost inevitably make the U.S. the leading precision medicine country by the end of 2016. As Geisinger recalls, Iceland was one of the first to launch a large-scale genomic analysis of its population in the late 1990s, a study that maxed out at 140,000 participants. The United Kingdom also took a giant leap into genomic medicine launching its 100,000 Genomes Project in 2012.

The MyCode initiative – lead by one healthcare provider in two states – is already close to reaching the same number of participants as Iceland. The NIH aims to enroll 79,000 participants in the PMI by the end of 2016, which means there will be more sequenced genomes linked to medical records in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world.

While MyCode is ahead of the precision medicine game, we can expect exciting developments as the federal PMI ramps up in 2016 and beyond. The PMI aims to enroll one million participants by the end of 2019 and has already recruited 450,000 volunteers through the Veteran’s Administration. As NIH Director Francis Collins told reporters, the study will be “the largest, most ambitious research project of this sort ever undertaken.”

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