Florida’s ethnic diversity will play a key role in an
ambitious, five-year medical research effort aimed at making
treatments and drugs more effective by tailoring them to the
lifestyles, genetics and environment of individual patients.
the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine and
funded by a $60 million grant from the National Institutes of
Health, a group of academic institutions in Florida and
Georgia — including the University of Florida, Emory
University, and Morehouse School of Medicine — have begun to
recruit 100,000 people from the Southeastern United States to
participate in a nationwide research program called "All
program’s goal is to recruit one million or more U.S.
residents over the next five years — including 40,000 from
South Florida — to help create a rich pool of data that will
account for individual differences in genetics, behavior and
geography in biomedical research. That database will then be
used for future studies into a wide variety of health
conditions and to help scientists develop more precise medical
now, most biomedical research has been conducted primarily
with non-Hispanic white subjects, mostly men, though the U.S.
Census shows that minorities make up nearly 40 percent of the
not enough to study just one kind of people," said Dr.
Stephan Züchner, principal investigator for the All of Us
program’s South East Enrollment Center and chair of UM’s
Department of Human Genetics. "It’s very important that
we understand the genomes of all people on the planet."
instance, he said, people from Southeast Asia tend to have
fast metabolisms, which causes certain drugs to have little or
no effect on them.
Mexico," he said, "there’s a much higher risk to
develop diabetes. We don’t know why. But it might well have
to do with genetics." Similarly, Züchner added, "We
cannot treat African Americans accordingly if we do not
realize they have a higher risk for certain cardiovascular
program is open to all adults, regardless of race or
ethnicity, health status, education or income level. Anyone
interested in participating can sign up through the All of Us
online portal at www.joinallofus.org/en.
selected will receive genomic sequencing. But scientists want
to understand more than genetics. They want to figure out how
individual behaviors, such as exercising, smoking or
overeating, and a person’s environment, from the climate to
the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables, affect the
way genetics function, said Dr. Olveen Carrasquillo, a lead
researcher for the program and an internal medicine physician
with the UM Health System.
is composed of many things," he said. "But we don’t
know the right balance of these things and how they contribute
to health and health outcomes."
said the All of Us program will follow participants for at
least five years and collect a wide range of data from them,
including any diagnosed diseases, medications they’re taking
and diet, with the aim of helping researchers one day figure
out what medicines work best for individual patients based on
their unique traits.
a much more nuanced approach to treatment that’s really much
more targeted for that individual person," Carrasquillo
and researchers will hold conferences over the coming years to
decide next steps for studying participants. One idea that has
gained traction is using technology, such as wearable activity
trackers and electronic health records, to measure
participants’ behaviors and gather their information.
said patient data collected as part of the All of Us program
will be safeguarded and used only by researchers. "This
is as good as it gets when it comes to data protection,"
a million people also may produce better research results than
prior studies because of the unprecedented scale, Züchner
said. And though he expects it will take a decade or longer
before biomedical researchers can make good use of the data
— perhaps too long for participants to benefit personally
— Züchner believes the effort will be worth it in the long
almost like you invest a little bit, you give a little bit of
your personal data," he said, "so your children and
your family will benefit from it."