NIH taps Color to provide genetic counseling for its 1M-strong All of Us study

The All of Us research efforts at Color will be led by Alicia Zhou, VP of research and scientific affairs; Scott Topper, VP of clinical operations and laboratory director; and Lauren Ryan, head of clinical counseling services. (Photo courtesy of Color)

As it moves forward with plans to fully sequence the genomes of at least one million people across the U.S., the National Institutes of Health has tapped the genomics firm Color to help participants understand and act on their results. 

The NIH’s All of Us research program hopes to be able to provide answers on how genes are connected to higher risks of certain diseases, as well as how a person’s genetic makeup can influence the effectiveness of different therapies.  

Color’s network of genetic counselors will offer educational materials and telehealth services, and will be able to connect participants and their families to healthcare providers for treatment or further screening if necessary. 

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“Returning results in a responsible way is integral to what All of Us stands for,” said Eric Dishman, director of the program. “Participants are our partners in research, who may want to receive their own health data, including genomics.”

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The deal also includes a $4.6 million award, in addition to Color’s ongoing funding in collaboration with the Broad Institute and Harvard’s Laboratory of Molecular Medicine, which previously received a genome center grant last September. 

The program’s coalition of centers are currently preparing to start genotyping and whole genome sequencing in the coming months, according to the NIH, and participants will have the choice of receiving their test results. 

A small percentage of participants will have DNA showing variations related to breast cancer or heart disease, for example, which could end up totalling tens of thousands of people out of the program’s 1 million. Color will deliver the results to these participants, highlighting any important facts for them or family members who may have the same genetic variants.

“A genetic counseling award of this size is a first for NIH,” said Brad Ozenberger, All of Us’ genomics program director. “We look forward to working with Color and our entire consortium to discover the ethical and effective ways to deliver genetic counseling at this very large scale across diverse communities.”

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