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US plans to enrol one million veterans for new DNA bank

9 May 2011
Appeared in BioNews 606

The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced in Washington last week that the Million Veteran Program (MVP), a research project that aims to collect DNA, lifestyle and other health data from one million veterans under the care of the VA, was being rolled out nationally from 5 May 2011.

The MVP project was launched in January 2011 and aims to become one of the biggest DNA and health information databases in the world. In a statement the VA said: ‘The MVP is a trailblazing VA effort to consolidate genetic, military exposure, health, and lifestyle information together in one single database'.

'By identifying gene-health connections, the program could consequently advance disease screening, diagnosis, and prognosis and point the way toward more effective, personalised therapies'.

The scheme is entirely voluntary for veterans and the researchers hope to collect the data over the next five to ten years. Although a complex program the organisers say that patient safety, privacy and security are of paramount importance. VA healthcare centres across the USA, including those in Boston, Seattle and Palo Alto, are now recruiting participants.

Highlighting their expertise, the VA stated that it was 'superbly positioned to conduct complex genomics research thanks to its large, diverse, and altruistic patient population and other unrivalled assets'. Dr Joel Kupersmith, the VA's chief research officer, said the MVP had ‘a state-of-the-art electronic health record' and 'fully equipped genomic labs with the latest technology'.

‘The merger of these distinct attributes – with the veteran as a partner – make VA uniquely able to conduct this ground breaking genomic research', he said. 

Dr Robert Petzel, VA's Under Secretary of Health said: ‘MVP (is) an important partnership between VA and veterans to learn more about how genes affect health, and thus, transform healthcare for Veterans and for all Americans'.

The US program will rival UK Biobank, a project with similar goals, which began in Manchester, England in 2000. This has now successfully recruited over half a million participants, aged between 40 to 69 years old, from the general population in the UK.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Million Veteran Program (MVP)
US Department of Veterans Affairs |  3 May 2011
The Million Veteran Program: VA’s Genomics Game-Changer Launches Nationwide
US Department of Veterans Affairs press release |  5 May 2011
VA program ties veteran health to genetics
UPI |  5 May 2011
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