Arguably one of the biggest limitations of genomic medicine is its disproportionately Euro-centric representation. This deficiency is one of the problems the massive National Institute of Health (NIH) All of Us Research Program aims to tackle. NIH’s Dr. Stephanie Devaney will engage attendees about this subject and more at today’s chair’s invited session, “Population Genomics Health and Precision Medicine.”
“We can’t get to a place where precision health is a reality for all communities if our discoveries are built off of incomplete datasets. We have a richly diverse population and yet the datasets are largely homogenous,” says Devaney, who is the All of Us Research Program’s chief operating officer. The program strives to accelerate biomedical research and improve health across communities by enrolling at least 1 million participants in the United States across a diverse and inclusive population.
Devaney will explain how, in addition to genetic data, All of Us is seeking to capture a wide range of non-biological variables, including clinical care, social determinants, behaviors, and “where and how [participants] live,” she says. “Humans are complex and the variables that affect our health outcomes, both positively and negatively, are many…we need datasets that can capture the many dimensions of a person.” She also plans to cover how the program is learning about participants’ own goals and values as part of its recruitment. At nearly 400,000 participants and counting, the All of Us approach is clearly working.
Joining Devaney will be Dr. Linnea Baudhuin, Professor of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, Mayo Clinic, who will be moderating the session, and co-speaker Dr. Eimear Kenny, Professor of Genetics and Genomic Sciences and a member of the Charles Bronfman Institute of Personalized Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
A statistical and population geneticist—with expertise in developing genomic technologies and machine-learning methods for exploring the link between genetics, ancestry, and disease—Kenny is the Founding Director of the Institute for Genomic Health (IGH), a genomic screening program through the BioMe Biobank in New York City.
Through IGH, BioMe’s over 60,000 participants (nearly two-thirds of which are of non-European ancestry) have the option to receive information pertaining to medically actionable results for monogenic genomic conditions, including breast and ovarian cancer, as well as polygenic results for complex diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and inflammatory bowel disease.
Attendees of Monday’s session should expect to leave with a fresh understanding of the importance of increasing research dataset diversity and its impact on the precision health initiative when it comes to screening, diagnosis, and treatment of a wide range of diseases.
The session will also highlight lessons learned during the implementation of clinical genomics screening programs—from obtaining resources to scale programs, to recruiting the best and brightest researchers with the skills and expertise to unlock their potential.