Research Program Pushes Citizen Science and Precision Medicine

May 1, 2018

Scripps Translational Science Institute Partners with Walgreens/Blue Cross Blue Shield to enroll volunteers to use technology to study their own health.

A nationwide consortium spearheaded by NIH has launched All of Us, a research project that utilizes advanced technologies and engages participants as citizen-scientists to embark on a new era of health science and precision medicine.

 The Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI) is taking the lead in a project designed to engage direct volunteers in the program through partnerships with Walgreens, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA), the National Blood Collaborative, Quest Diagnostics, and other organizations.

These partnerships will be used to integrate smartphone apps, wearable sensors, and other mobile health devices to collect real-time data on health metrics such as blood pressure, blood glucose levels, heart rate, heart rhythm, and exercise and sleep patterns for the research.

In a statement, STSI said it is working with mobile technology and bioinformatics companies, and will lead integration of mobile apps and digital medical devices into the program to collect and analyze an unprecedented range and depth of health data.

Eric Topol, MD, director of STSI and professor of molecular medicine at The Scripps Research Institute, says: “All of Us represents a far-reaching initiative for what’s possible in medical research today and in the future-how each individual can generate useful data about their own health and what makes them tick.”

”The initiative will provide an unprecedented window into individual differences in biology, physiology, lifestyle, and environment that shape human health, and ultimately will enable us to more effectively prevent and treat illness,” he states.

The goal of the All of Us Research Program is to build the largest health data resource by asking one million or more participants to actively collect and share their unique health information. The gathered data will ideally enable scientists to study how different factors-from genetics to exercise habits-impact a person’s health.

For its part, Walgreens said that it will use its marketing expertise to build awareness about the program and the opportunity to join, while also making select Walgreens Healthcare clinics available for collecting volunteers’ health data. In a statement, Pat Carroll, MD, chief medical officer for Walgreens Healthcare Clinics, says, “With a local community presence throughout the country, including medically underserved areas, Walgreens works to improve the health of millions of people every day, representing a cross section of all Americans.

Carroll, added: “Now, through the All of Us Research Program, we can offer people of diverse backgrounds a chance to volunteer in research that may improve the future health of all Americans. Our local community presence and our trusted relationship with our customers and pharmacy patients make us well-suited to help this effort.”