The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced last week that the Million Veteran Program (MVP), co-directed by a Yale faculty member and an alumnus of the School of Medicine, has recruited 500,000 volunteers, making it the largest genomic biobank in the world. The co-directors are John Concato, M.D., M.S., M.P.H. ’91, professor of medicine at Yale, and J. Michael Gaziano, M.D. ’87, M.P.H., professor of medicine at Harvard.
Launched in 2011 as part of the White House Precision Medicine Initiative, the program combines genomic data, health and treatment records, and baseline and follow-up surveys that track veterans’ military experiences, health, and lifestyles. Researchers believe the information contained in the database could hold the key to preventing and treating diseases. With 500,000 participants, the program is halfway toward its goal of recruiting 1 million volunteers.
“Just like the Hubble Space Telescope opened up ways of seeing the universe that Earth-bound telescopes couldn’t provide, we think that MVP will allow us to explore the genomic universe,” said Gaziano, in an interview with Yale Medicine in 2015.
“MVP can be viewed as a long-term infrastructure project,” added Concato. “Our role is to help design the program so that researchers now and in the future can use the biobank effectively, securely, and ethically, and have the right information available to address the right questions.”
Research using MVP data is already underway, studying a range of medical issues like mental illness and heart and kidney diseases. The program also has rich data on various health conditions that are common in veterans. Almost two-thirds of MVP enrollees report a current or past diagnosis of high blood pressure, and nearly a third of veterans have a past or current diagnosis of cancer.
“We believe MVP will accelerate our understanding of disease detection, progression, prevention and treatment by combining this rich clinical, environmental and genomic data,” David J. Shulkin, M.D., the VA’s under secretary for health, said in a statement. “VA has a deep history of innovation and research. MVP will allow the nation’s top researchers to perform the most cutting-edge science to treat some of the nation’s most troubling diseases.”
For more on the MVP, visit http://yalemedicine.yale.edu/spring2015/features/feature/218433/.