Mobile apps to help recruit for million-person precision medicine study

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NIH Clinical Center

The National Institutes of Health is making moves on the precision medicine front, announcing another $55 million in awards to lay the groundwork for the PMI Cohort Program. The program’s aim is to collect information from 1 million or more Americans to improve our ability to prevent and treat disease based on individual differences.

The funding will be awarded in the latter half of this year and will support a number of efforts to set up the foundation for the initiative, including a Data and Research Support Center, a Participant Technologies Center and a network of Healthcare Provider Organizations, according to a statement. While the program will recruit participants directly via the healthcare provider network, it will also reach patients via mobile apps, thanks to the Participant Technologies Center.

The NIH tapped 5 entities to form the Participant Technologies Center, including the Scripps Research Institute and Vibrent Health, which has built an early smartphone hub for remote monitoring, according to MobiHealthNews. The center will develop mobile apps that will enroll, obtain consent from, collect data from and communicate with PMI Cohort Program participants, the NIH said. The center will also develop “parallel platforms” that will carry out these functions without smartphones.

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“Over time, data provided by participants will help us answer important health questions, such as why some people with elevated genetic and environmental risk factors for disease still manage to maintain good health, and how people suffering from a chronic illness can maintain the highest possible quality of life,” said NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins in the statement.

Scripps and Vibrent are the main awardees, which received $20 million in funding for the first year and stand to pick up $120 million over the next 5 years. Sub-awardees Sage Bionetworks, PatientsLikeMe and Walgreens will share the award and collaborate on the Participant Technologies Center. Walgreens will contribute by allowing people to enroll and participate in the program at its stores, online and through its mobile app, according to a statement. And Sage will work on patient engagement and community outreach as well as patient consent and data governance, MobiHealthNews reported.

“This is an incredibly complex study requiring new kinds of strategic and operational partnerships--this can’t be business as usual,” said Kathy Hudson, NIH deputy director for science, outreach, and policy, in the NIH statement.

- here's the NIH statement
- read the MobiHealthNews story
- here's Walgreens' statement

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