Boston Institutions Join Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative

They'll help execute a million-person study.

Massachusetts General Hospital

Mass General photo by Samantha Carey

Multiple Massachusetts institutions are joining President Obama’s fight to improve precision medicine, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced Thursday.

Precision medicine is an approach to disease treatment that takes into account individuals’ lifestyles, environments, and genes. It’s heralded by many experts as the next frontier of medicine, and President Obama last year launched the Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI), a massive, multi-institution research project, as a way to move it forward.

Per the NIH’s latest announcement, Partners HealthCare, which encompasses Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Boston University School of Medicine; Boston Medical Center; and UMass Medical School are joining the team. Specifically, they’ll be part of the NIH-run PMI Cohort Program, a network of institutions executing a million-person precision medicine study. Those one million participants will contribute a wide range of data, hopefully building a national resource for researchers.

A number of healthcare providers are already part of the PMI Cohort Program, but the new additions—which also include a number of institutions outside Boston—will help expand the breadth of the project. In total, the new locations will get started with $5.5 million in NIH funding.

“We want this program to be open to everyone across the United States,” said Eric Dishman, director of the PMI Cohort Program, in a statement. “These additional health care provider organizations will help us in our efforts to reach communities that have been underrepresented in research.”

The Broad Institute, in Cambridge, is also involved in the PMI. Along with Verily Life Sciences and Vanderbilt University Medical Center, it’s building a Data and Research Support Center that will catalogue and analyze the massive amounts of data included in the PMI.