The Heartland Consortium, which includes academic medical centers at the University of Kansas, the University of Iowa, the University of Missouri and the University of Nebraska, has been formed to recruit patients in those states for the National Institutes of Health’s All of Us Research Program.
The partners will receive $6.3 million in initial funding, with the potential to renew the award every year for four years.
The goal of the All of Us Research Program is to advance precision medicine research, one day enabling clinicians to tailor patient care by accounting for individual differences in biology, behavior and environment. To that end, the program has created a national research resource that will include comprehensive de-identified health information from more than 1 million people in the United States.
A network of consortia made up of healthcare provider organizations helps enroll participants who reflect the diversity of the United States, but this is the first consortium dedicated to engaging participants in the Midwest. The Heartland Consortium seeks to enroll more than 6,000 participants in its first year.
“The Heartland Consortium is excited that our region will now be a part of the national All of Us Research Program, helping to further precision medicine research by ensuring people in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa are represented,” said Akinlolu Ojo, M.D., consortium principal investigator and executive dean of the University of Kansas School of Medicine, in a statement. “Our participation was made possible by the substantial resources and researcher expertise from disciplines across the KU schools of Health Professions, Medicine and Nursing and from other consortium members from our four-state region.”
“It’s vital that the All of Us Research Program reflect the true diversity of the United States to allow researchers to better understand how differences in what it’s like where we live, our lifestyle and DNA impact our health and disease,” said Holly A. Garriock, Ph.D., chief cohort development officer at the National Institutes of Health’s All of Us Research Program, in a statement. “The Heartland Consortium will provide opportunities for more communities to participate in medical research and be represented in the All of Us dataset, enabling researchers to discover breakthroughs relevant to their communities.”
Unlike research studies that focus on one disease or group of people, All of Us is building a diverse database that can inform thousands of studies on a variety of health conditions. Researchers will be able to tap into a broad database to better understand the risk factors for certain diseases and inform future treatments and prevention. All of Us stresses that it follows all federal, state and local laws in keeping data safe. The program removes all personal details from the data to prevent participants from being identified.
The consortium aims to reach out to a wide variety of participants, with special emphasis on those in rural areas, as well as other groups historically underrepresented in research.
“The All of Us Heartland Consortium is an important project that will allow Nebraskans to participate in one of the largest and most comprehensive databases ever constructed,” says Cyrus Desouza, M.B.B.S., principal investigator at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, in a statement. “This will lead to scientific discoveries that will benefit all Nebraskans, people in the heartland and everyone nationwide. UNMC is proud to be an integral part of this consortium.”
Consortia in other areas of the country are conducting similar efforts to enroll patients. For instance, a consortium led by Columbia University Irving Medical Center and joined by Weill Cornell Medicine, NYC Health + Hospitals/Harlem, and NewYork-Presbyterian is spearheading enrollment in New York City. The NYC Consortium is responsible for enrolling 93,000 participants over a five-year period.