NIH expands grant for Scripps-led Precision Medicine group to $207M

By Jonah Comstock
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The National Institutes of Health has expanded the $120 million grant it planned to give a consortium led by the Scripps Translational Science Institute. The award, which will be distributed over the next five years, has been expanded to $207 million, though the new funds also come with new responsibilities for the consortium as part of the White House's Precision Medicine Initiative.

“The size of this award underscores the critical nature of this research in improving our ability to prevent and treat disease,” Scripps Research Institute President Peter Schultz said in a statement. “We are thrilled to be part of such a major undertaking and look forward to supporting Dr. Eric Topol in leading this unprecedented project.”

NIH is working with numerous partners to launch a massive research study to collect genetic and lifestyle information from 1 million individuals from varying walks of life in order to create a foundational database for precision medicine research.

It was announced in June that the Participant Technologies Center, led by Scripps and Vibrent Health and including partners such as PatientsLikeMe, Sage Bionetworks, and Walgreens, would be responsible for enrolling 350,000 participants in the study using mobile technologies. With this new funding, in addition to its mandate to "develop, test, maintain and upgrade the mobile applications and technology platform used to enroll, consent, collect data from, communicate with and retain participants", the PTC will be expected to develop an alternate framework for enrolling participants without smartphones.

The 350,000 volunteers recruited by the PTC will make up just over a third of the 1 million volunteers the project is seeking; others will be recruited through their healthcare provider.

Scripps also announced a host of new partners that will assist in the initiative. These include Quintiles Q2 Solutions, Leidos, the San Diego Blood Bank, the National Blood Collaborative, and EMSI. Additional technology partners include WebMD, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Computer Science Corporation, and Qualcomm.

“We are exceptionally fortunate to be working with an unparalleled group of partners and to be able to leverage the strengths of these leaders from a broad spectrum of sectors—pharmaceutical companies and health insurers to wireless technology experts and mobile application developers,” Topol said in a statement. “The depth and breadth of expertise of these organizations will be invaluable to our goal of advancing individualized medicine at a national level.”