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Kaiser Permanente, UCSF Land $25M Grant for Genotyping Effort

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Kaiser Permanente and the University of California, San Francisco, have won a $24.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to use information and biospecimens from 100,000 of Kaiser Permanente's members in a large-scale study of how genetic and environmental interactions affect human health.

The Kaiser Permanente Research Program on Genes, Environment, and Health (RPGEH) and UCSF will use the two-year stimulus grant from NIH to conduct genome-wide analysis of DNA samples from 100,000 Kaiser volunteers in Northern California.

UCSF's Institute for Human Genetics will perform the genotyping on the project, which also will lean heavily on Kaiser's historical clinical data and other health-related patient information and its electronic health records, which Kaiser said is the world's largest such civilian repository in the world. The partners said that the resulting resource will provide a new platform for studying genetic and environmental influences over time on a wide range of health conditions, across diverse populations.

"This investment of federal dollars will provide researchers with access to a uniquely rich resource for research on genetic and environmental effects on health, aging, and disease," Cathy Schaefer, executive director of the RPGEH, said in a statement. "Providing access to genome-wide genetic data on such a large population, combined with rich clinical and environmental data, is without precedent."

The project also will include data about drug metabolism and drug response that researcher may use to find links between genetic factors and individual drug responses.

Funded through the National Institute on Aging, the average age of the participants in the study will be age 65.

RPGEH was launched in 2005, when it began enrolling volunteers from Kaiser's three million members in Northern California. It has now received biospecimens for more than 110,000 volunteers for its biobank, and eventually will store samples and health surveys for 500,000 members from the region, it said.

A year ago the RPGEH received an $8.6 million award from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Pioneer Portfolio to fund collection and storage for the first 200,000 samples.

"The unequaled size and power of this biorepository will enable researchers to analyze genetic, environmental and other health data in ways that were never before possible," RWJF President Risa Lavizzo-Mourey said. "The findings they generate will help us target effective prevention and treatment strategies that dramatically improve people's health and the quality of their care."

Kaiser Permanente also said today that it has received a total of over $54 million in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, including the RGPEH initiative.

The other funding includes an NIH Grand Opportunities grant of $4 million to study personalized medicine and genomic tests for colon cancer, including one test that responds to a common treatment and another test for a genetic mutation that increases the chance of developing colon cancer. Another $3.3 million will create a National Research Database that will organize and use Kaiser Permanente's electronic health records.