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Kaiser, UCSF Dump Data from Large Genomic Study into DbGaP

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Kaiser Permanente and the University of California San Francisco have deposited data from a large genomic research project into the National Institutes of Health's database of Genotypes and Phenotypes, an action that is expected to greatly benefit researchers studying the genetics behind diseases.

The National Institute on Aging said today that it has made available data from the Genetic Epidemiology Research on Adult Health and Aging (GERA) project, a cohort of 78,000 people with an average age of 63 who are part of a genome-wide association study conducted by Kaiser Permanente and UCSF.

"Data from this immense and ethnically diverse population will be a tremendous resource for science," NIH Director Francis Collins said in a statement. "It offers the opportunity to identify potential genetic risks and influences on a broad range of health conditions, particularly those related to aging."

"The GERA cohort has the largest number of people – of any age – with data in dbGaP," NIA Director Richard Hodes added.

This cohort was studied under the Kaiser Permanente Research Program on Genes, Environment, and Health (RPGEH) initiative, which includes more than 430,000 adult members of Kaiser Permanente's system in Northern California. The RPGEH effort included genome-wide genotyping conducted at UCSF's Institute for Human Genetics Genomics Core Facility using Affymetrix's Axiom Gene Titan system. Researchers then combined that data with Kaiser Permanente's longitudinal electronic medical records and extensive survey data on participants' health habits and backgrounds.

"Making these data on such a large diverse cohort broadly available will enable many more scientists to work at a much greater scale that is likely to help answer important questions concerning health," said Catherine Schaefer, executive director of the RPGEH program.

Specifically, the resource will enable investigators to focus on diseases associated with aging, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, and to examine the genetic basis for a much broader range of diseases that strike in adulthood, like depression, diabetes, insomnia, eye diseases, and many others. The GERA data in dbGaP will be updated as more information is added to the Kaiser-UCSF database.

NIA envisions that scientists will use the GERA cohort data to confirm or disprove other studies that used smaller samples, to boost the size and power of their samples by adding GERA information to their meta-analyses, and as a reference for comparing individuals with different conditions.

Neil Risch, director of the UCSF Institute for Human Genetics and co-principal investigator for GERA, said the data set will save researchers money and time.

"Collecting large amounts of health data from people — and processing it — is labor intensive and expensive. With this data set, no one has to collect clinical information, take bio samples, safeguard and store them, or conduct genome-wide genotyping of their DNA. They can simply sit at a computer, ask questions of the data, and extract information," Risch said.