NIH grants focus on combining genomic information and EHRs

Sept. 2, 2015

A dozen awards from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will support research that incorporates DNA sequence information into electronic medical records. The goal of research conducted by the Electronic Medical Records and Genomics (eMERGE) network is to better understand the genomic basis of disease and to tailor medical care to individual patients based on their genomic differences.

The grants, administered by the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), represent the third phase of the eMERGE program, and focus on moving genomics research closer to clinical application by identifying the potential medical effects of rare genomic variants (inherited differences in the DNA code) in about 100 clinically relevant genes. The activity of such genes can affect a person’s health, and might affect treatment choices.

“The newly funded projects are focused on discovering genes and gene variants with clinical implications by using the latest sequencing technologies to examine rare and common variants suspected to relate to disease risk and treatment effects,” says Rongling Li, M.D., Ph.D., Program Director, eMERGE, Division of Genomic Medicine, NHGRI. “The other important component of these grants is implementing what researchers learn about these gene variants into medical settings to improve patient care.”

Researchers will look at the best ways to provide DNA test results to physicians and patients, she says, and ways in which doctors might use this information to improve clinical treatment and practice. These funded researchers will also examine the psychological and economic effects on patients and families, and the effects on healthcare systems, in using this information.

Pending available funds, several organizations have been awarded research grants, including Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Columbia University, and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

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