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University of Arizona to be part of ambitious $1.45 billion U.S. health study

University of Arizona to be part of ambitious $1.45 billion U.S. health study

The University of Arizona will have a role in a major national study that aims to include DNA and health data from one million people across the U.S.

The National Institutes of Health study, called the All of Us Research program, grew out of what was called the Precision Medicine Initiative Cohort Program.

The UA was also part of the Precision Medicine program and had been awarded $43.3 million over five years. All of Us increases that UA award up to $60 million over five years, UA officials said Thursday morning.

The UA's goal is to find 100,000 of the one million people, which will be possible via its affiliation with Banner Health, said Dr. Andreas Theodorou, chief education officer for Banner University Medical Group and a principal investigator on the award.

"The goal is to change the way we do medical research and the way we look at health prevention and disease treatment. That is why it's so big and so costly," Theodorou said.

"We hope to keep all those folks who sign up in the system for at least 10 years. It's important to note that all the data is de-identified — the individual's identity is separated from the collection of data that will be used by the investigators."

The national All of Us Research Program launches Sunday.

Volunteers will contribute a wide range of health, environment and lifestyle information with a long-term goal of helping researchers and clinicians develop individualized care.

"If you think about it, this will capture people who have common diseases and people who have very rare diseases," Theodorou said.

"For example, if you know people who have the same disease like diabetes, cancer or chronic pain. Why does one treatment not work for all of them?...We're all just different enough that standard treatment isn't good enough for everybody."

The NIH says it has taken extensive measures to ensure protection of patient information.

"What we're doing with the All of Us Research Program is intersecting with other fundamental changes in medicine and research to empower Americans to live healthier lives," National Institutes of Health director Dr. Francis S. Collins said in a prepared statement.

UA officials say the UA Health Sciences/Banner effort will focus on the inclusion of Hispanic/Latino and American Indian/Alaskan Native participants and communities to gain greater insight on disease prevention and treatment.

"Keep in mind, many groups of people are underrepresented in biomedical research data and therefore, things we discover don't necessarily work for them," Theodorou said.

Theodorou said the UA was selected for the award based on its expertise in population health, as well as its affiliation with Banner Health. Banner is Arizona's largest private health system.

Phoenix-based non-profit Banner Health was the surviving entity following a merger with the locally-owned, non-profit UA Health Network.

Banner now owns Banner-University Medical Center Tucson, 1501 N. Campbell Ave., and operates Banner-University Medical Center South, 2800 E. Ajo Way, through a lease agreement with Pima County. The merger included an academic affiliation between Banner Health and both of the UA’s medical schools.

"That combination led to a team that was perfect for this type of research," Theodorou said.

The additional UA principal investigators for the award are Dr. Akinlolu Ojo, associate vice president for clinical research and global health initiatives at the UA and Dr. Eric M. Reiman, executive director of the Banner Alzheimer's Institute, chief executive officer for Banner Research and UA professor of psychiatry.

The large data set that's expected to result from the study could also identify the causes of individual differences in response to commonly used drugs. as well as uncover biological markers that signal one's risk of developing common diseases, UA and NIH officials say.

"It is a large award and we have a responsibility to put our A Team behind it and work with the community to make it successful," Theodorou said. "This could change how we deliver health care."

Contact health reporter Stephanie Innes at

Twitter: @stephanieinnes

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