May 6, 2019

NIH sees progress in path to improving medical research diversity

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A "flagship enterprise" by the National Institutes of Health is making progress toward its goal of enrolling 1 million Americans from diverse communities in the program "All of Us," which launched one year ago, NIH director Francis Collins said Monday.

Why it matters: The lack of diversity in medical research can hinder proper treatment of non-European races and other underrepresented groups. The Big Data generated from this program is also expected to lead to discoveries on diseases ranging from diabetes and Alzheimer's to figuring out who may be more vulnerable to opioid crisis.

"We're talking about Big Data that gets bigger every day. The interesting thing about this program, though, and why I like it and why representation matters [is] because what I've learned ... all data matters, both big and small. And, in a rush to try and get that Big Data, hopefully we don't make communities invisible. ... The promise of this program ... [is] seeing them."
— Robert Winn, associate vice chancellor for community-based practice and director of University of Illinois Cancer Center, at a briefing

What's new: On Monday, the program announced current progress and launched the beta program of an interactive and public data browser tool, which currently offers only a glimpse of the data it plans to provide later in the program.

By the numbers: Collins says the program expects to reach at least 1 million participants in 5 or 6 years, and aims to follow participants for at least a decade. Since the program launched a year ago...

  • More than 230,000 people have begun the process of joining the program. 
  • More than 192,000 have signed the consent to enroll.
  • More than 142,000 have completed all the steps of the first version of the protocol. 
  • Almost 80% of the participants come from communities that have historically been underrepresented in biomedical research. 
  • More than 50% of the participants describe themselves as being part of a racial or ethnic minority.

How it works: The program has focused on some areas of the country where health care resources may be scarce, and enrolls adults of every race, ethnicity, sex, gender, and sexual orientation.

  • Participants agree to allow access to their records and go to a participating center to have their basic measurements taken and take a survey.
  • Some may be asked to provide blood and urine samples, to share data through wearable devices, or to join followup research studies, including clinical trials.

The bottom line: In trying to get away from the "one size fits all" mentality, scientists are increasingly pushing towards personalized medicine, and data from underrepresented communities is key to this goal.

Go deeper: NIH launches massive program to diversify medical research

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Trump says he will campaign against Lisa Murkowski after her support for Mattis

Trump with Barr and Meadows outside St. John's Episcopal church in Washington, D.C. on June 1. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump tweeted on Thursday that he would endorse "any candidate" with a pulse who runs against Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

Driving the news: Murkowski said on Thursday that she supported former defense secretary James Mattis' condemnation of Trump over his response to protests in the wake of George Floyd's killing. She described Mattis' statement as "true, honest, necessary and overdue," Politico's Andrew Desiderio reports.

5 hours ago - World

The president vs. the Pentagon

Trump visits Mattis and the Pentagon in 2018. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty

Over the course of just a few hours, President Trump was rebuffed by the Secretary of Defense over his call for troops in the streets and accused by James Mattis, his former Pentagon chief, of trampling the Constitution for political gain.

Why it matters: Current and former leaders of the U.S. military are drawing a line over Trump's demand for a militarized response to the protests and unrest that have swept the country over the killing of George Floyd by police.

New York Times says Tom Cotton op-ed did not meet standards

Photo: Avalon/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

A New York Times spokesperson said in a statement Thursday that the paper will be changing its editorial board processes after a Wednesday op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), which called for President Trump to "send in the troops" in order to quell violent protests, failed to meet its standards.

Why it matters: The shift comes after Times employees began a coordinated movement on social media on Wednesday and Thursday that argued that publishing the op-ed put black staff in danger. Cotton wrote that Trump should invoke the Insurrection Act in order to deploy the U.S. military against rioters that have overwhelmed police forces in cities across the country.