Verily tapped by NIH to launch Obama's Precision Medicine Initiative

NIH Director Francis Collins

Verily, Alphabet's ($GOOG) life sciences spinoff, has been keeping busy with R&D the past year. Now, the company is adding another project to its load after the National Institutes of Health (NIH) tapped it to co-launch President Obama's previously announced Precision Medicine Initiative.

Verily will work with Nashville, TN-based Vanderbilt University to roll out the pilot program, which is shooting to enroll 79,000 volunteers by the end of this year. The participants will provide personal data that could spur discoveries surrounding health and help treat disease, Reuters reports.

The program runs counter to a "medicine based on one size fits all" approach, NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins said, as quoted by Reuters. Researchers will maximize results by tracking participants' individual genetic characteristics. And scientists will also look at how environment can impact genetic predispositions to disease.

A Verily/Vanderbilt coordinating center will oversee the project, carrying out tasks such as collecting data from a network of healthcare provider organizations; organizing a "biobank" to store and manage participants' biological specimens; and running a participant technologies center, according to the Reuters story. The program is already drawing attention, with more than 40 commitments cropping up from groups including nonprofits, universities, tech companies and patient advocates.

The NIH has big plans for the initiative. The "cohort program" will eventually include one million or more U.S. volunteers, drawing on a diverse participant pool comprising all ages, economic and racial groups, Collins said. The agency, along with the Health Resources and Services Administration, is working on partnering with community health centers to include underserved communities in the program.

The NIH is also working on standardizing applications, which will allow individuals to contribute their data. Regulators have already established an institutional review board to monitor this project.

Verily CEO Andrew Conrad

Meanwhile, Verily is keeping busy on the research front. The company earlier this year said that it would join forces with the American Heart Association (AHA) and pharma giant AstraZeneca ($AZN) to challenge scientists to come up with innovative approaches to treating heart disease.

"Our aim is to provide the resources and support necessary to study coronary heart disease over a number of years with the most advanced tools available," Verily CEO Andrew Conrad said at the time. "We're looking for a team that can gain new understanding, prove new treatments, and--ultimately--prevent or reverse this challenging disease."

- read the Reuters story