Project to collect 100,000 people’s medical data

Tracking microbiomes, blood tests and more over decades could provide individual health recommendations

CHICAGO — Personalized medicine is headed for the cloud: A new project will collect 68 different types of medical data for 100,000 people, creating an individualized digital simulation of each person.

In March, the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle will begin collecting data on 100 people – mostly the friends of Leroy Hood, the institute’s director. In the next several years the project is slated to expand to 100,000 healthy people. Hood and other researchers will collect data from the volunteers for 20 to 30 years.

Hood, who announced the project February 14 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said that it will cost $10,000 per person at the outset but he expects the price to drop significantly as technology matures.

Among the information the project aims to integrate from each person is a full genome sequence, blood draws to test for proteins and metabolic chemicals, stool samples for microbiome analysis and surveys about diet, exercise, sleep habits and other lifestyle factors.

With enough information collected over time, Hood said researchers expect to be able to define what it means to be healthy and predict who is likely to get sick, both among the volunteers and for broader populations. He said he hopes to give people concrete actions they can take to prevent future disease.

Tina Hesman Saey is the senior staff writer and reports on molecular biology. She has a Ph.D. in molecular genetics from Washington University in St. Louis and a master’s degree in science journalism from Boston University.

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