All of Us

NIH sees progress in path to improving medical research diversity

Illustration of a pill bottle filled with different colors, sizes and shapes of pills in it
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.

NIH launches massive program to diversify medical research

Doctor discussing health issues with patient in community health center
Doctor discusses health issues with a patient at a community health center. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

In an effort to get rid of what it calls "one-size-fits-all" medicine, the National Institutes of Health is launching a national research program May 6 that it hopes will attract 1 million people within 5 years from diverse populations to volunteer and help advance personalized medicine.

Why it matters: Researchers have struggled with the lack of diversity in genetic testing databases and in studies and clinical trials for years — that not only affects results but leaves underserved populations with less access to the care provided under those trials. This new program is "going to transform medical care," NIH director Francis Collins predicted at a press briefing Tuesday.