The All of Us Research Program at the National Institutes of Health is an unprecedented research initiative to gather data over many years from 1 million or more people living in the United States, with the ultimate goal of accelerating research and improving health. The program aims to create one of the largest, richest biomedical datasets for future studies, thus accelerating scientific and medical breakthroughs to improve and save lives.
Unlike research studies that focus on a specific disease or population, All of Us will serve as a national research resource to inform thousands of studies, covering a wide variety of health conditions, according to program director Eric Dishman, who delivered the Lewis A. Conner Memorial Lecture Sunday at Scientific Sessions.
“Currently, we don’t have the ability and often don’t have enough science and research to do the kind of precision care that we need to do across all health conditions,” Dishman said. “Our mission with the All of Us program is to accelerate health research and medical breakthroughs, enabling individualized prevention, treatment and care — so it’s not just about coming up with a better pill. If all we get out of all this talk about precision medicine stuff is more therapy and not real strategies for dealing with prevention and dealing with the social issues of health, then we will have failed.”
Dishman said the program is currently in beta phase and is focused on several initial strategic objectives, including developing partnerships with key organizations such as the AHA to begin the process of ultimately recruiting “participant partners” to the All of Us cohort to volunteer and share information about their health, lifestyle and environment.
“This is a longitudinal study, and if we’re going to get ongoing data from people, we’re going to have to build a relationship with them and give them value back, as well as include them in the creation of the platform and the creation of the ethics that we’re carrying forward,” Dishman said. “People are going to be consented for a very long period of time and the diversity of participants we get will define what this research journey is going to be like for decades to come.”
Dishman also emphasized the importance of developing the program in a way that will make it appealing and useful to a diversity of researchers.
“We don’t want this to be something that just the top tier of biomedical researchers use,” he said. “We want community colleges to be able to use it. We want more people to be able to use these tools, to be able to play in the biomedical sandbox without having to become a computer programmer just to do their science.”
While he admitted the program is ambitious, Dishman believes the time is right forAll of Us to succeed. Americans are engaging in improving their health and participating in health research more than ever before, he said, while electronic health records have been widely adopted, genomic analysis costs have dropped significantly, data science has become increasingly sophisticated and health technologies have become mobile.
“Think of this as the Framingham Heart Study, but larger than the town of Framingham, larger than the state of Massachusetts. It’s the entire country and not just focused on cardiovascular health, but all health,” Dishman said. “It’s exciting to imagine what this research platform of at least a million people — hopefully many more millions over time — will do to accelerate the science, to accelerate the discoveries that are going to change people’s lives.”