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NHGRI Pledges $25.5M for EMR Program

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Human Genome Research Institute will move into the next phase of its electronic medical records research program with grants that will give around $25.5 million over the next four years to fund investigators and to start a coordinating center to support the research.

The funding for the Electronic Medical Records and Genomics (eMERGE) network will be used to launch the second phase of the program, which began in 2007 with the aim of combining electronic medical records (EMRs) technologies with DNA biorepositories for use in large-scale, high-throughput genomics research projects.

The eMERGE program brings together expertise from various fields including genomics, informatics, and clinical medicine, to use genome-wide association study data to make discoveries about the relationships between genetic variations and common human traits.

One of the core questions underlying the program is whether EMR systems can be a resource for genomic analysis of disease susceptibility and therapeutic outcomes in diverse patient populations. It also was designed to focus on social and ethical issues including privacy, confidentiality, and interactions within the broader community.

The new grants for phase II of the program include $22 million to support existing eMERGE sites and new sites that have existing biorepositories and genome-wide genotyping data to incorporate methods developed in the first phase of the program.

This funding program also includes $3.5 million to fund the creation of one coordinating center that will serve as a centralized resource to support phase II of the eMERGE network.

The goal of this phase is to continue to fund genome-wide association studies, to reduce the risks to patient privacy caused by sharing EMR data, to develop consent and consultation procedures for conducting such research, and to begin to incorporate genomic research data into clinical care, according to NHGRI.

To achieve these aims, NHGRI plans to expand the eMERGE electronic phenotyping library from 14 phenotypes to at least 40, to expand the participating sites to include under-represented populations, and to incorporate genome-wide association study data into EMRs to make them useful in improving genetic risk assessment, prevention, diagnosis, and for the accessibility of genomic medicine.

The eMERGE sites will be expected to run a comprehensive research program to incorporate genomic findings into clinical care. These programs could include approaches to identify people with very high genetic risk for a given condition to their clinicians for increased surveillance and prevention efforts.

These sites also could involve development of approaches to identify patients with pharmacogenetically important variants that could be used to modify treatment strategies, development of approaches for returning genetics research data to patients, expansion of the electronic phenotyping library, and improvements in analytical methods or tools that deal with the various types of phenotypes using genotyping platforms in multiple study sites.