NIH grants support incorporation of DNA info into EHRs

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded 12 grants to support research that incorporates DNA sequence information into electronic health records.

The grants, announced Sept. 1, will focus on moving genomics research closer to clinical application by identifying the potential medical effects of inherited differences in DNA code to about 100 clinically relevant genes, which can affect a patient's health and treatment choices.

The grants will be administered by the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) and represent the third phase of the Electronic Medical Record and Genomics (eMERGE) program. The goals of the research are to better understand the genomic basis of disease and to tailor medical care to individual patients based on their genomic differences.  

Several of the grantees include Brigham and Women's' Hospital, the Mayo Clinic, Geisinger Health System and Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

"The newly funded projects are focused on discovering genes and gene variants with clinical implications by using the latest sequencing technologies to examine rare and common variants suspected to relate to disease risk and treatment effects," said Rongling Li, M.D., Ph.D., program director for eMERGE in the Division of Genomic Medicine at NHGRI. "The other important component of these grants is implementing what researchers learn about these gene variants into medical settings to improve patient care."

The eMERGE Network is a federally funded consortium of nine institutions that have pioneered the use of EHRs and genomes. It has been working on a number of related issues, including how to use genomic information in EHRs, such as pharmacogenomics, to predict responses to drugs; the practical challenges of integration, such as limits in EHR storage capacity of genomic information; and ethics, legal and social implications of incorporating genomic information into an EHR, including privacy concerns and the duty to warn family members of potential genetic risks.

Precision medicine is intended to improve patient care by customizing treatment, and will require accurate data. The White House issued its Precision Medicine Initiative earlier this year in support of this endeavor.

To learn more:
- read the announcement