UC Irvine Health Affairs

Epidemiologist to help lead statewide precision medicine initiative

UC Irvine epidemiologyist Hoda Anton-Culver, PhD, co-leads statewide precision medicine initiative.
Steve Zylius / UC Irvine Strategic Communications
UC Irvine epidemiologist Hoda Anton-Culver will serve as co-principal investigator for the California Precision Medicine Consortium's initial $1.3-million award from the National Institutes of Health.

Consortium to help recruit million-person group at center of federal program

UC Irvine epidemiologist Hoda Anton-Culver, PhD, will help lead an ambitious and far-reaching statewide effort to recruit tens of thousands of patients for President Barack Obama’s million-person health study, part of his Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI).

The California Precision Medicine Consortium is one of four regional groups chosen Oct. 13, 2016, by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to take part in a national network of healthcare provider organizations to build the Precision Medicine Initiative’s research participant group, or cohort.

The consortium is a partnership among UC Irvine, UC San Diego, UC Davis, UC San Francisco and UC Health, along with Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the San Diego Blood Bank and the University of Southern California.

As a member of the national network, the California consortium will receive an initial $1.3 million through March 2017, and may receive additional NIH funding as efforts advance over the next year. The four regional healthcare provider organizations are joining awardees announced earlier this year to enroll  interested individuals, gather participants’ health information and biospecimens, and help develop plans for the PMI Cohort Program.

Anton-Culver, professor and chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the UC Irvine School of Medicine, will serve as co-principal investigator for the California consortium’s award, along with UC San Diego's Lucila Ohno-Machado, MD. PhD, and UC San Francisco's Atul Butte, MD, PhD.

The initiative’s objective is to create a framework by which medical treatment and prevention can be tailored to each individual. The cohort program is the largest piece of the PMI: a million-volunteer health study of the interplay among lifestyle, environment and genetics. The cohort is intended to be a national resource for researchers, including citizen scientists, to help answer key questions about numerous health conditions.

The state consortium has assembled experts from across California to develop a comprehensive approach for enrolling patients to ensure that the richly varied populations of California are represented in the cohort.

"This is important because the idea behind having a million or more participants is that they’ll reflect not just California but also the United States, with the potential to be applied worldwide," Anton-Culver said. "We hope they’ll be highly diverse and include Hispanics, Asians, Pacific Islanders and other groups. Inclusion of these populations will help the PMI Cohort Program answer questions related to precision health covering the full natural history of disease and prevention, from susceptibility to early diagnosis to response to treatment and survivorship."

Volunteers will be invited to contribute a range of data about themselves by completing questionnaires, granting access to their electronic health records, providing blood and urine samples, undergoing a physical evaluation and sharing real-time information via smartphones or wearable devices. Data collected will be subject to privacy and security safeguards.

When the PMI Cohort Program opens for enrollment, people may sign up through a participating health provider organization or directly, using the program’s website, smartphone application or call center. To learn more, visit www.nih.gov/precision-medicine-initiative-cohort-program.

— Tom Vasich, UC Irvine Strategic Communications