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Seeking a Cohort

Researchers in the US are seeking to enroll a million patients into a "precision medicine cohort," the New York Times reports. The cohort is part of the Precision Medicine Initiative announced by President Barack Obama in his 2015 State of the Union address.

The Times notes that researchers want more data from participants than just a blood sample for DNA, their medical history, and demographic data. Investigators are also interested in lifestyle data, such information about participants' diet, exercise regimen, and sleep patterns, and environmental data, such as whether there might be air or water pollutants in their area.

The researchers are also seeking a cohort that's reflects the geographic, racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity of the US population and are enlisting not only large academic medical centers to enroll participants, but also community health centers, the Times says.

"A big motivation for researchers is to use this data to find correlations between people's lifestyle, family history, environment, and genomic data — to figure out what factors contribute to disease and if they affect different populations in different ways," Rhonda Trousdale, chief of endocrinology at Harlem Hospital, which is collaborating with Columbia University as part of the project, tells the Times. "That's what precision medicine is about."

The Times adds that appropriation committees in Congress have supported Obama's $230 million request for the project for the next fiscal year, a move it says indicates that the project may continue after Obama leaves office.