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NIH Allocates $75M to Create eMERGE Risk Assessment Network

NEW YORK – The US National Institutes of Health on Tuesday announced $75 million in funding over five years to add risk-assessment capabilities to the Electronic Medical Records and Genomics (eMERGE) network. NIH said that this will help integrate genomic risk assessment into clinical care at 10 sites nationwide.

Specifically, NIH's National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) will fund the creation of the Genomic Risk Assessment and Management Network, which will set protocols and methodologies for measuring and applying risk among diverse populations. About $61 million of the money is earmarked for four general and six "enhanced diversity" clinical sites, while $13.4 million will go to Vanderbilt University Medical Center to create a coordinating center for the project.

Vanderbilt already hosts the coordinating center for eMERGE.

The four general sites, at Mayo Clinic, Vanderbilt, Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital, and Northwestern University, plan on recruiting 10,000 patients, of whom 35 percent should come from racial or ethnic minority groups, underserved populations, or populations that typically have poor medical outcomes, NIH said.

The remaining sites will together recruit 15,000 patients, including at least 75 percent from one of the diverse backgrounds. These "enhanced diversity" centers include University of Alabama at Birmingham, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Columbia University, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and the University of Washington Medical Center.

These sites will be looking to overcome the historic slant toward white populations in the calculation of polygenic risk scores and add new types of clinical data including age, body-mass index, and lifestyle factors such as alcohol use, according to NIH. Participating institutions also will seek to incorporate risk scores into clinical decision support and electronic health records. 

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