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Million-Veteran Genetics Program to Expand

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – A large-scale project seeking to harness medical and genomic information from one million US veterans in order to identify health and disease-related genes is preparing a national expansion plan that will take between five and seven years, the Department of Veterans Affairs said today.

The Million Veteran Program (MVP) will seek to consolidate individual genetic information with a wide range of applicable data from individual veterans, including military exposure, health, and lifestyle information, into one secure database, VA said.

The aim of the program is to use the VA's medical and other personnel records with genetic information to identify gene-health connections that could be used to screen for, diagnose, and prognose diseases and develop personalized therapies.

VA Secretary Erik Shinseki said in a statement that the program will put the agency "at the leading edge of genomics research.

"This innovative research program will support VA's mission to provide veterans and their families with the care they have earned," Shinseki said.

VA Under Secretary for Health Robert Petzel said that the partnership seeks to "learn more about how genes affect health, and thus, transform health care for veterans and for all Americans."

The program was launched in January at one VA medical center, but the VA now plans to expand it nationally.

VA is "superbly positioned to conduct complex genomics research," the agency said, because of its "large, diverse, and altruistic patient population" and other assets.

"We have a research establishment that is embedded in an integrated health care system with a state-of-the-art electronic health record, fully equipped genomic laboratories with the latest in technology, and top-caliber investigators — most of whom also provide direct patient care," added Joel Kupersmith, VA's chief research and development officer. "The merger of these distinct attributes — with the Veteran as a partner — make VA uniquely able to conduct this ground breaking genomic research."

The program has been developed in coordination with the VA Genomic Medicine Program Advisory Committee, as well as partners including the Department of Defense, the National Institutes of Health, and veterans' service organizations.