Alexander: Vanderbilt “Front and Center” in President’s Precision Medicine Initiative

Hosts roundtable to discuss the university’s recent $71.6 million, five-year NIH grant – “a giant credit to the research, leadership, and talent at Vanderbilt”

Posted on August 18, 2016

NASHVILLE, Tenn., August 18, 2016 – U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said the recent $71.6 million, five-year grant to Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) puts Vanderbilt “front and center” in the president’s Precision Medicine Initiative to drive treatments and cures tailored to individual’s genomic makeup and to expedite research for rare diseases.

“Vanderbilt is going to be storing the data and making it useful—helping researchers turn these data into new ideas for treatments and cures, and conducting the research to make the president’s Precision Medicine Initiative a reality,” said Alexander, speaking at a roundtable he hosted today at Vanderbilt. “This award is a giant credit to Vanderbilt’s research, leadership, and talent and one of the most exciting developments for Vanderbilt, Tennessee, and for medicine in a long, long time.”

He added, “Precision medicine has the potential to touch every American family, expedite cures for rare diseases, and improve the lives of millions who are sick and in need of better solutions—and I look forward to the Senate completing its work to support this game-changing initiative when we return in September.”

Alexander, who is the chairman of the Senate health committee, introduced legislation approved by the committee this year to support the Precision Medicine Initiative—strengthening privacy protections, so that participants can be sure their information will only be used by researchers; giving NIH more flexibility to partner with cutting-edge companies doing advanced research; requiring researchers to share their data; and improving health information technology, so data flows more easily between patients and researchers.

Along with that legislation, which is part of the Senate’s 21st Century Cures, Alexander has proposed a targeted surge of funding for the Precision Medicine Initiative.

Alexander, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) have all said Congress should pass 21st  Century Cures when it returns in September.

Alexander hosted today’s roundtable to learn more about the grant given by the NIH to VUMC—the largest it has ever received— to establish and operate the Data and Research Support Center for the Precision Medicine Initiative Cohort Program.

According to the NIH, the Data and Research Support Center at VUMC will “acquire, organize and provide secure access to what will be one of the world’s largest and most diverse datasets for precision medicine research.” VUMC, working with the Broad Institute and Verily Life Sciences—formerly Google Life Sciences—“will also provide research support for the scientific data and analysis tools for the program, helping to build a vibrant community of researchers from community colleges to top healthcare research institutions and industries, and including citizen scientists, who can propose studies using this information.”

During his State of the Union in January 2015, the president announced a Precision Medicine Initiative – a plan to map the genomes of 1 million volunteers and make the data available to researchers working to develop treatments and cures tailored to each individual patient, rather than one-size-fits-all treatments.

VUMC’s $71.6 million grant is in addition to the $1.2 million award Vanderbilt University received in February to partner with Verily in creating a pilot program to gather the genomes of 1 million Americans as well as a $11.6 million grant in May to launch the Vanderbilt-Miami-Meharry Center of Excellence in Precision Medicine and Population Health to address health disparities among African-Americans and Latinos.

Also participating in today’s roundtable were Dr. Jeff Balser, president and CEO of VUMC and dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine; Dr. Jennifer Pietenpol, executive vice president for research at VUMC and director of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center; Dr. Dan Roden, senior vice president for personalized medicine and head of the Roden Lab at VUMC; and Dr. Josh Denny, associate professor of biomedical informatics and medicine at VUMC. Dr. Denny was also named principal investigator for the grant awarded to VUMC for the new Data and Research Support Center for the Precision Medicine Initiative Cohort Program and will be the center’s director.