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Henry Ford leads 7-state research consortium awarded precision medicine funding

October 13, 2016

DETROIT - The National Institutes of Health announced today that Henry Ford Health System is leading a five-member research consortium to expand the geographic reach and diversity of the NIH's Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI) Cohort Program.

The consortium is one of four regional health care systems newly awarded funding under the PMI Cohort Program, a landmark research effort aimed at advancing personalized health care by studying how individual differences in lifestyle, environment and genetics influence a person's health and disease risk. The consortium joins a network of other health provider organizations announced earlier this year.

Henry Ford is leading the Trans-American Consortium for the Health Care System Research Network, which comprises four integrated health care systems representing a strikingly diverse community population totaling more than 9 million individuals across seven states. The consortium includes scientists from Baylor Scott & White Research Institute in Texas, Essentia Health headquartered in Minnesota, Spectrum Health in Michigan and University of Massachusetts Medical School.

"We're honored to have been chosen as one of the leaders of such a landmark research initiative and to partner with a distinguished group of health care organizations," says Henry Ford President Wright Lassiter III. "The data we collect could help answer important questions about a variety of health conditions."

The consortium will initially enroll 10,000 participants in the first year, collect their health information and biospecimens, and provide input on developing plans for the Cohort Program. The Cohort Program aims to collectively enroll 1 million participants nationally over several years. Participants will be asked to:
  • Provide diet and lifestyle information.
  • Provide blood and urine samples.
  • Undergo a physical evaluation.
  • Grant access to their electronic medical record.
  • Share real-time information via smartphones or wearable devices.
The NIH emphasized that collected data will be protected by privacy and security safeguards.

"This initiative has the potential to improve prevention and treatment of disease based on an individual's lifestyle, environment and genetics. Ultimately, this could lead to more effective preventive measures and treatments early on," says Christine Cole Johnson, Ph.D., MPH, chair of Henry Ford's Department of Public Health Sciences and co-principal investigator of the Trans-American Consortium. "We look forward to working with our consortium partners known for their medical and research expertise."

In announcing the new partnerships, the NIH said the organizations "have expertise in engaging racial and ethnic minority populations who have been historically under-represented in biomedical research. They are also well positioned to enroll over time populations that are often unable to take part in research, such as those with mental illness, substance abuse, developmental delays and cognitive impairments."

Brian Ahmedani, Ph.D., director of Research for Henry Ford's Behavioral Health Medicine and co-principal investigator, called the Cohort Program "one of the most revolutionary studies ever developed."

"It is more than a standard research study, but a true patient-provider-research partnership, whereby we hope to work collaboratively to make major advances in understanding risk of disease as well as matching people with the most effective treatments for them. I'm personally very excited about the opportunities this project may offer to improve personalized care, and specifically in my area of passion - mental health care, in the years to come," Dr. Ahmedani says.

Henry Ford is also part of an oncology precision medicine program to revolutionize cancer care in the Midwest. In June, Henry Ford and Syapse, the leading precision medicine software company, announced a partnership as part of the White House Cancer Moonshot's call for action.
About Henry Ford Health System

Henry Ford Health System is a six-hospital system headquartered in Detroit. It is one of the nation's leading comprehensive, integrated health systems, recognized for clinical excellence and innovation. Henry Ford Health System provides both health insurance and health care delivery, including acute, specialty, primary and preventive care services backed by excellence in research and education. The system is a 2011 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award recipient. Visit to learn more.


Henry Ford Health System
David Olejarz

Baylor Scott & White Research Institute
Kristine Hughes

Essentia Health
Amanda Akason

Spectrum Health
Beth Cranson

University of Massachusetts Medical School
Sarah Willey

Henry Ford Health System

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