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Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Gives $8.6M for Kaiser Permanente's West Coast Biobank

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — Kaiser Permanente plans to use a multi-million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to help it develop “one of the world’s largest” biobanks of genetic and environmental health data in northern California, the foundation said today.
The insurer aims to use the $8.6 million from the foundation’s Pioneer Portfolio to develop a biobank that will house as many as 500,000 samples by 2012.
The biobank will be operated by Kaiser Permanente’s Northern California Division of Research, which will house the biobank's first 200,000 DNA samples and host a secure database with relevant health and environmental information.
The foundation and the company expect that the population-based database will have “enough statistical power to identify even subtle effects of environmental and genetic factors in less common health conditions such as mental health disorders or autoimmune disease,” the foundation said.
Some grant funding will be used to develop policies and procedures that will allow the database to be accessible to researchers around the world.
Researchers could use the data from the bank to conduct population-based studies of genetic and nongenetic factors that affect the severity or recurrence of common diseases such as cancer or diabetes. The database will include longitudinal electronic medical records that could help researchers develop tests that can reduce the severity or the recurrence of these diseases.
“The unequaled size and power of this biorepository will drive research that can dramatically improve the health and healthcare of millions of Americans,” the foundation’s CEO, Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, said in a statement.
The database will be used in 2009 for a study of genetic and non-genetic contributors to the risk of prostate cancer in African American men, and a large study of the genetics involved in bipolar disorder.
“The diversity of the database makes it a unique resource,” said Kenneth Olden, dean of the School of Public Health at Hunter College. He also said that the findings from studies from this program could be “readily applied to the population in the United States.”