Geisinger Health System, based in Danville, Pa., announced this week that it has signed up 100,000 recruits for its major biobank and DNA sequencing study known as the MyCode Community Health Initiative.
Launched in January 2014 in collaboration with the Regeneron Genetics Center, the MyCode Community Health Initiative originally set out to recruit 100,000 study participants. That target was reached in only two years as the research program gained momentum much faster than expected, according to a press release from Geisinger Health System.
Geisinger researchers have now set a goal of recruiting at least 250,000 participants, and, if reached, would boost the health system to be the global leader in large scale genetic research, the press release stated.
David Feinberg, M.D., Geisinger president and CEO, credited the program’s success to Geisinger patients and their “stability” in the region.
“The families in our core markets are multi-generational and the population is incredibly stable, meaning they don’t move away from the area. When we ask to look into their genome, they tell us ‘yes’ based on trust and respect. And that plays directly into what’s happening when it comes to our success with genomics.” The information gleaned from the MyCode study will contribute to a broad range of research aimed at understanding, preventing or improving treatments for disease.
“Our ultimate goal is to help improve health care by finding ways to diagnose medical conditions earlier or before they appear and also find new treatments or medications to manage these diseases, ”Geisinger Chief Scientific Officer David Ledbetter, PhD.
Geisinger’s study is also the largest in the United States that combines electronic health records linked to large-scale DNA sequencing data, according to the health system.
Iceland was one of the first to launch a large-scale genomic analysis of its population in the late 1990s, a study that maxed out at 140,000 participants. The United Kingdom also took a giant leap into genomic medicine with the 100,000 Genomes Project, launched in 2012.
President Barack Obama unveiled the $215 million Precision Medicine Initiative in 2015, a national research effort aimed at revolutionizing how we improve health and treat disease by building a national research cohort of one million or more U.S. participants.
According to the health system, The Geisinger-Regeneron MyCode collaboration is ahead of the federal initiative, having already sequenced the exomes—the portion of DNA that contains disease-related information –of more than 60,000 participants and providing validated results to those who show risk for specific disease.
Currently, Geisinger is returning results to patients who are at risk for 27 conditions, for example Lynch syndrome, which can result in a higher than normal chance of developing colorectal cancer, endometrial cancer, and various other types of aggressive cancers at a young age, or familial hypercholesterolemia, which can cause heart attack and death at an early age, the health system said.
“When we receive these results, we build this information into our patients’ electronic health record which allows us to practice anticipatory medicine,” Feinberg said. “Geisinger is uniquely poised for precision medicine. We’re the only organization taking a population health approach to genomics.”