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NHGRI Creates New Precision Health Research Program

NEW YORK – The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) said this week that it plans to establish a new precision health research program within its Division of Intramural Research.

The program will aim to develop and evaluate next-generation genomics and informatics tools to improve the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease. It will leverage available tools and recent research in genomic technologies, computation, and data science, as well as large genomic datasets, DNA from hundreds of thousands of participants collected and stored in biobanks, and electronic health records.

The program will be led by Leslie Biesecker, chief of the NHGRI Medical Genomics and Metabolic Genetics branch, who has experience in genomic medicine research, the agency said.

"Progress in genomics since the completion of the Human Genome Project has exceeded even optimistic expectations in terms of discoveries about the genetic basis of health and disease," NHGRI Director Eric Green said in a statement. "Knowledge about the clinical relevance of genomic variants is growing in leaps and bounds, and the new and exciting challenge is to turn that knowledge into more effective healthcare."

The new program will also provide opportunities for interdisciplinary research within the National Institutes of Health, the agency said. The NIH Clinical Center plans to study individuals identified through the new informatics approaches developed by the new NHGRI program, which will help to test new diagnostic and treatment approaches.

The program will also involve core facilities that will facilitate the work of other NHGRI intramural researchers, including one core that will provide access to the large datasets emanating from various cohort studies worldwide, such as the UK Biobank, BioVU, ClinSeq, All of Us, and others.

"The new NHGRI precision health research program is well positioned to capitalize on a confluence of developments related to the growing availability of genomic and medical data [from] cohort-based studies," Green added.

NHGRI did not say how much funding it will make available for the new program.