Pitt Receives Prestigious NIH Award to Support Development of Million-Person Precision Medicine Study

By: Colleen Zewe

AERIAL_UPMC_OAKLAND_CAMPUS_20130426_RETOUCHThe National Institute of Health announced Wednesday that $4.2 million is to be awarded to the University of Pittsburgh to build the partnerships and infrastructure needed to launch the Cohort Program of President Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI). Over five years, the total amount awarded to Pitt could reach $46 million, pending progress and availability of funds.

The PMI Cohort Program, announced during President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union address, aims to extend precision medicine to all diseases by bring together over 1 million participants  in this national research effort.

Pitt is one of several NIH-selected Healthcare Provider Organizations (HPOs), a network of health and medical centers that will engage their participants in the PMI Cohort Program and ensure participants in PMI research represent the geographic, ethnic, racial and socioeconomic diversity of the country.

“As an HPO, the University of Pittsburgh, in collaboration with UPMC, has an essential role in the PMI Cohort Program, one of the NIH’s most ambitious research efforts since the Human Genome Project,” said Arthur S. Levine, M.D., Pitt’s senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and John and Gertrude Petersen Dean of Medicine. “We are on the cusp of a new era in medicine in which we can apply knowledge in genetics and genomics, combined with lifestyle and environmental data and other disciplines to improve disease prevention strategies and tailor treatment options for everyone.”

The Pitt PMI project, called the Precision Approach to healthCARE (PA CARES) will be led by Pitt’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI). The program will launch at 11 enrollment sites across western Pennsylvania and neighboring states. In its first year, PA CARES aims to recruit and enroll 10,000 volunteer participants, as well as an additional 165,000 individuals over the five-year award period.

“This project is a testament to the strength and value of the integrated research resources and expertise we’ve been able to build through CTSI over the past 10 years at Pitt,” said principal investigator Steven E. Reis, M.D., associate vice chancellor for clinical research, Health Sciences, professor of medicine, and CTSI director. “The PMI Cohort Program will provide individuals from across the region, and the nation, with an unprecedented opportunity to contribute to the development of individualized approaches to prevent and treat disease.”

In addition to the medical history, clinical data, and lifestyle information that Pitt participants will share with the PMI Cohort, mobile health devices and apps will provide lifestyle data and environmental exposures in real time, making data more accurate than ever. All data acquisition will be accomplished with essential privacy and security safeguards in place.

The ultimate goal is to be able to personalize treatment for every patient according to their background and needs.

“Every patient is different; every patient has a unique story. This comprehensive massive collection of patient information, combined with our advanced analytics approach eventually will enable us to treat each patient in a personalized way to produce the best possible results,” said Steven D. Shapiro, M.D., UPMC’s chief medical and scientific officer.

Overall, the PMI Cohort and PA CARES will change the way patients are treated for the better and vastly improve our nation’s healthcare system.

Says Dr. Reiss, “What we learn now by working together will benefit our children, grandchildren and generations to come.”