NIH launches beta phase of All of Us program to prepare for national rollout

The National Institutes of Health has officially kicked off the first phase of a precision medicine research effort that aims to collect data from 1 million people.

The first participants have begun enrolling in the program, according to an announcement from All of Us program director Eric Dishman. The initial phase, which Dishman likened to “‘Version 1.0.’ of a major software and protocol release” comes less than a year after NIH formed a national team that included some of the nation’s largest healthcare providers, multiple data research centers and technology companies.

NIH will begin recruiting at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and gradually increase to 10,000-15,000 participants across more than 100 locations over the next four to five months. Those participants will provide feedback on the systems and processes to prepare the initiative to “go big,” Dishman said in a video announcement.

“Hopefully that ‘go big’ will mean we’ll open up nationally sometime in the fall once we’ve gone through this beta phase,” he said.

Although this marks the start of NIH’s major research effort, Dishman has referred to himself as “one of these weird early prototypes of precision medicine,” after he was diagnosed with a rare type of kidney cancer that was eventually treated after undergoing genomic mapping.

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The All of Us program is part of the federal government's broader push to advance precision medicine. But there has been concern from some in the medical community about the long-term prospects of those research efforts under the Trump administration, which has called for $5.8 billion in cuts to NIH.

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At the same time, health systems like Stanford and Inova Health System are pushing forward with individual efforts to bring precision medicine into the clinical environment.