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NHGRI Pumps $25M into eMERGE Network

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Institutes of Health has kicked off the second phase of its effort to prove the value of integrating genomic data and electronic medical records by awarding $25 million to eight institutes.

This round of Electronic Medical Records and Genomics (eMERGE) grants will support studies over four years that will seek to demonstrate how patients' genomic information linked to diseases in EMRs can be used in their care.

Seven research institutes in the eMERGE network and one coordinating center will receive the four-year funding from the National Human Genome Research Institute to undertake this second phase of the project.

The first phase of the effort, completed in July, demonstrated that disease characteristic data in electronic medical records and patient's genetic information can be used in large genetic studies, NIH said today. During this phase, researchers in the network identified genetic variants associated with dementia, cataracts, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, peripheral arterial disease, white blood cell count, type 2 diabetes, and cardiac conduction defects.

“Our goal is to connect genomic information to high quality data in electronic medical records during the clinical care of patients. This will help us identify the genetic contributions to disease,” NHGRI Director Eric Green said in a statement today.

“We can then equip healthcare workers everywhere with the information and tools that they need to apply genomic knowledge to patient care,” Green added.

Mayo Clinic researcher and eMERGE grant co-principal investigator Iftikhar Kullo said in a statement that with the new funding, "We will develop genetic risk scores for heart attack and adverse drug reactions as well as tools to communicate genomic risk to both patients and care providers. The goal is to accelerate the translation of recent advances in genetics and pharmacogenetics to the clinical practice, leveraging the electronic medical record."

"This is an opportunity to expand the number and scope of conditions that we can look at across a larger consortium of practices," added Christopher Chute, Mayo's biomedical informatics researcher and co-principal investigator. "We are beginning to integrate genomic information into electronic medical records with the goal of providing tools for physicians to meet the needs of the patient."

The seven eMERGE institutes receiving new funding include: Vanderbilt University Medical Center ($772,000); Group Health Cooperative and University of Washington ($823,000); Northwestern University ($762,000); Geisinger Weis Center for Research, ($841,000); Essentia Institute for Rural Health ($773,000); Mayo Clinic, Rochester ($788,000); and Mount Sinai School of Medicine ($847,000).

Vanderbilt University also will receive $846,000 to establish the eMERGE coordinating center for supporting and facilitating the research efforts of the other investigators in the network.

In the upcoming phase, the network scientists will analyze genome-wide association data from around 32,000 patients in each study to identify genetic variants associated with at least 40 disease characteristics and symptoms.

In the spring of next year, NHGRI expects to award up to $1.6 million for three-year pediatric-focused eMERGE studies that will be co-funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

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