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US project on 1 million genomes lines up genetic counsellors

27 August 2019
Appeared in BioNews 1012

A US governmental programme which aims to sequence the genomes of one million people has teamed up with a company to offer genetic counselling to participants.

The 'All of Us' precision medicine project, led by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has given an initial funding award of US$4.6 million to health technology company, Color, based in Burlingame, California.

The idea is that the firm's network of genetic counsellors will support the project's participants as they receive their genomic testing results. Color will offer educational materials as well as counselling.

'This is a really responsible and more equitable way of communicating the results of research to all participants,' Professor Bartha Knoppers, director of the Centre of Genomics and Policy at McGill University in Montreal, Canada told Nature News. 'They're laying the foundations for building good bridges between the findings and the people.'

The objective of the 'All of Us' programme is to perform genome sequencing on participants from diverse communities across the USA, and to combine this with health data. The study organisers are putting priority on including ethnic and socioeconomic groups that have historically been underrepresented in biomedical research. This information will then be available to scientists in an effort to speed up health research breakthroughs. 

'A genetic counselling award of this size is a first for NIH,' said Dr Brad Ozenberger, genomics programme director of All of Us. 'We look forward to working with Color and our entire consortium to discover the ethical and effective ways to deliver genetic counselling at this very large scale across diverse communities.'

Over a year after its launch in May 2018, the NIH published the programme's progress in the New England Journal of Medicine. Currently 230,000 participants have enrolled and 175,000 of those have had their 'biospecimens' taken. Some 80 percent of these people are from groups traditionally underrepresented in biomedical research. 

'Our hope is that identification of risk factors and biomarkers (including environmental exposures, habits, and social determinants) will improve population health by bringing about more efficient and accurate diagnosis and screening, better understanding of diverse populations, more rational use of existing therapeutics, and the development of new treatments,' wrote the All of Us research programme investigators.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Genetic counselling available to All of Us participants in the future
mobihealthnews |  22 August 2019
Huge US government study to offer genetic counselling
Nature News |  21 August 2019
NIH funds genetic counseling resource ahead of million-person sequencing effort
National Institutes of Health |  21 August 2019
NIH taps Color to provide genetic counseling for its 1M-strong All of Us study
FierceBiotech |  21 August 2019
The 'All of Us' research program
New England Journal of Medicine |  15 August 2019
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