- The NIH awarded Vibrent Health $39 million in a deal to boost its ‘All of Us’ research initiative’s tech platform.
- More DTC genetic testing vendors will likely roll out hospital-facing tools in response to growing interest.
- Insider Intelligence publishes hundreds of insights, charts, and forecasts on the Digital Health industry with the Digital Health Briefing. You can learn more about subscribing here.
The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded digital health company Vibrent Health with $39 million to construct the tech backbone—which includes a platform for wide-scale data collection and digital tools for participant recruitment and engagement—for its ‘All of Us’ precision medicine research initiative for the next five years.
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For context, the NIH launched the All of Us research initiative in 2018 with the aim of enrolling 1 million US individuals across different age, race, financial, and health statuses to ultimately design a diverse biomedical database that hospitals and public health entities can tap into.
This move brings All of Us one step closer to reaching its goal of diversifying genetic databases in the US, thus improving their value. While only 12% of the global population is of European descent, this demographic accounts for 80% of participants included in clinical research—highlighting the pressing need for more variation in clinical data. For instance, cardiovascular health outcomes can vary among different racial groups—and approving drugs based off of a homogenous group of research participants could mean skewed recommendations for treatment dosages.
And the coronavirus pandemic has further emphasized poor diversity in clinical trials: A NEJM study last month revealed that Gilead’s clinical trial for the coronavirus vaccine only had 11% of Black patients and less than 1% of Hispanic participants, even though CDC data has shown that these groups are disproportionately affected by the novel coronavirus. Thus, we expect the NIH’s five-year partnership with Vibrent will help rapidly scale the research program’s diversity efforts, further boostings its enrollment to forge a path for more accurate representation in US clinical trials.
We think a robust, diverse dataset will be increasingly need-to-have as more hospitals consider tapping genetic testing vendors for their precision medicine efforts. DTC genetic testing companies have indicated dwindling consumer interest for their services in the past year—and vendors are responding with more healthcare-focused tools to grab the attention of health institutions. For example, Color also began working with the NIH’s All of US initiative in 2019 to offer genetic testing and counseling to participants—and last month, Ancestry rolled out a next-generation sequencing tool to better examine hard-to-sequence variants of genes associated with various cancers.
The shift to pivot business to lure in new hospital and research organizations makes sense for genetic testing vendors: An August UPMC survey of over 100 US healthcare system representatives revealed that 60% of health systems believed that their number of genetic testing vendors will increase by 2023—presenting a massive opportunity for genetic testing firms to help boost personalized diagnoses and treatments for patients.
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