A massive National Institutes of Health study with a recruitment hub in Pittsburgh has turned a year old. The All of Us precision medicine project has an aim to recruit 1 million people, and it still has a long way to go.
The goal is to assemble a vast database for future research studies, with more than half the pool coming from diverse ancestral backgrounds, and including sexual and gender minorities. So far more than 140,000 participants have been gathered nationwide, with 15,000 recruited by UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh.
The diversity of participants is key, according to UPMC and Pitt physician Dr. Mylynda Massart. She said historically, medical studies haven't looked at diverse populations, so the results aren't applicable for all people.
"In order to practice precision medicine, or personalized medicine, we need data that truly reflects the full diversity of our country," Massart said.
Massart said her practice serves a primarily African-American population, so she's seen this issue first-hand.
"When I practice, I want to use evidence-based medicine, but historically, a lot of research has not included African ancestry," she said. "Therefore, I don't actually have evidence that's relevant to the patient that I'm caring for."
When the project was launched last year, Pittsburgh was chosen as a recruitment hub because of its large population of older people in the region. Other partner medical systems participating in recruitment are located in Detroit, New York City and Boston.
As there remains a gap before 1 million people are enrolled, recruitment efforts will ramp up locally and nationally, according to Massart. The project is anticipated to last for 20 years.
WESA receives funding from Pitt and UPMC.