VA’s ‘Million Veterans Program’ research study receives its 100,000th human genome sequence

Improved genetic sequencing comes with larger databases of the human genome that could lead to new diagnostic and therapeutic biomarkers for clinical laboratories

As the Covid-19 pandemic hit the headlines, the Human Genome Database at the United States Department of Veterans Affairs Million Veteran Program (MVP) has quietly grown. Now, this wealth of genomic information, together with data from other large-scale genomic and genetic collections, should yield novel biomarkers for diagnostics and clinical laboratory testing.

In December, the Cancer Genomics Society Personalis, Inc. (NASDAQ:PSNL) of Menlo Park, Calif., has reached a major milestone and delivered its 100,000th complete human genome sequence to MVP, according to a Press releasewhich also indicates that Personalis is the sole sequencing provider for MVP.

The VA’s MVP program, which began in 2011, has 850,000 registered veterans and is expected to eventually involve two million people. The VA’s goal is to explore the role that genes, lifestyle and military experience play in human health and disease, notes the VA’s MVP website.

Health issues affecting veterans that MVP is researching include:

The VA contracted with Personalis until September 2021 and invested $175 million, Clinical OMICS reported. Personalis earned around $14 million from the VA. That’s about 76% of the company’s revenue, according to Q2 data, Clinical OMICS Noted.

“The VA MVP is the greatest whole genome sequencing project in the United States, and this is an important milestone both for the program and for Personalis,” said John West (above with his wife Judy), founder and CEO of Personalis, in the press release. “Population-scale sequencing projects of this nature represent the cornerstone of our efforts to accelerate the advancement of precision medicine in a wide range of disease areas,” he added. (Photo copyright: MIT Technology Review.)

Database of veteran genomes used in current research

What has the VA gained from their investment so far? A MVP Fact Sheet states that researchers are leveraging MVP data for these and other studies related to veteran health:

  • Genetic variations associated with different tumor structures in patients with non-small cell lung carcinoma.
  • Differentiate prostate cancer tumors that require treatment from others that grow slowly and are not life threatening.
  • How genetics drives obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
  • How DNA data translates into actual physiological changes in the body.
  • Genetic variations and patient response to Warfarin.

NIH research program studies the effects of genetics on health

Another research program, the All of us from the National Institutes of Health study, recently began returning results to its participants who provided blood, urine, and/or saliva samples. The NIH aims to facilitate research on health outcomes influenced by genetics, environment and lifestyle, explained a Press release. The program, launched in 2018, has biological samples from more than 270,000 people with a target of one million participants.

NIH All of Us program partners include:

Dr. Josh Denny CEO of the NIH All of Us program headshot
“We are changing the research paradigm. Participants are our most important partners in this effort, and we know many of them are eager to get their genetic results and learn more about the science they make possible,” said Josh Denny, MD, CEO of the NIH All of Us Research Program in the press release. Denny, a medical scientist, was a professor of biomedical informatics and medicine, director of the Precision Medicine Center and Vice President of Personalized Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center before joining the NIH. (Photo copyright: National Institutes of Health.)

Inclusive data could help precision medicine

The press release notes that more than 80% of biological samples in the All of Us database come from people from communities that have been underrepresented in biomedical research.

“We need programs like All of Us to create diverse datasets so that research results ultimately benefit everyone,” said Brad Ozenberger, Ph.D.director of the All of Us Genomics program, in the press release.

Precision medicine designed for specific healthcare populations is a goal of the All of Us program.

“[All of Us is] beneficial to all Americans, but actually beneficial to the African American race because a lot of research and a lot of medicine that we benefit from today, [African Americans] were not part of the research,” Chris Crawford, All of US Research Study Navigator, told the Birmingham timetable. “As [the All of Us study] moving forward and we get a large, diverse group of people, that will help make drugs and treatments that will be more accurate for us,” he added.

Large databases could advance care

Genome sequencing technology continues to improve. Sequencing an entire human genome is faster, less complicated and cheaper than ever. And the resulting sequence is more accurate.

So, as human genome sequencing databases grow, researchers derive useful scientific insights from the data. This is relevant for clinical laboratories because new knowledge gained from studying larger databases of genomic information will yield new diagnostic and therapeutic biomarkers that can serve as the basis for new clinical laboratory tests as well as useful diagnostic tests for anatomical pathologists.

—Donna Marie Pocius

Related information:

Personalis Announces Delivery of 100,000th Genome to United States Department of Veterans Affairs Million Veteran Program

VA Extends Personalis Contract for Million Veteran Project with $31 Million Order

Million Veterans Program Research Projects

All of Us research program returns first genetic results to participants

Research on all of us: why some get sick and others are healthy

Comments are closed.