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In Search of How to Find Volunteers

Researchers designing the Precision Medicine Initiative are trying to include racial and other minorities in the study, while avoiding mistakes made by other large studies, Nature News reports.

The PMI, announced by US President Barack Obama in his State of the Union address this year, is a $215 million initiative that seeks to develop a cohort of a million people from all over the country. Researchers will collect medical record, genetic, metabolomic, lifestyle, and other data from participants to better understand disease and develop personalized treatments.

However, as Nature News notes, other large-scale studies have run into issues when trying to recruit large, diverse cohorts. The National Children's Study, which was to sequence the genomes of and follow 100,000 children from birth to age 21, came to a sudden end — though it may be resurrected in a modified form — because of design and implementation issues.

PMI investigators hope to over-represent minority groups in the study so that they will be able to come to statistically significant conclusions about minority groups. But how they will go about recruiting participants hasn't been determined yet.

Washington University in St. Louis' Sarah Gehlert tells Nature News that she hopes the PMI doesn't rely too heavily on patient advocacy groups for recruitment, as those groups tend to attract white, affluent city dwellers.

Another approach could be similar to what Jackson State University's Donna Antoine-LaVigne took for her survey of cardiovascular disease in 5,300 African Americans: she relied on healthcare workers in the community to recruit volunteers, Nature News notes. This, though, can be labor-intensive.

Bray Patrick-Lake, the co-chair of the PMI working group, tells Nature News that finding that balance between conventional and community-based approaches is a priority for the group.