Yale Launches Comprehensive DNA Sequencing Project, With Aim of Predicting, Preventing, and Treating Gene-related Diseases

September 11, 2019
by Robert Forman

At a ceremony at Yale Center for Clinical Investigation on September 4, Yale School of Medicine and Yale New Haven Health System officially launched Generations, one of the largest DNA sequencing projects of its kind in the United States. The aim is to enroll more than 100,000 patients in and near Connecticut, whose DNA will then be analyzed by Yale scientists to develop useful data for predicting, preventing, and treating what may eventually be hundreds of gene-related conditions.

The process starts with a simple blood sample, with the patient’s identity hidden from the research teams to ensure personal privacy. As genetic trends related to specific diseases are found, Yale clinicians will put their findings into practice for patients of Yale Medicine and the Yale New Haven Health System. “We learn from every patient whom we treat within the health center,” said Brian R. Smith, MD, professor and chair of laboratory medicine, deputy dean for scientific affairs, co-director of the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation, and co-principal investigator of the Yale Clinical and Translational Science Award Program. “As a consequence of that, we do a better job with the next patient we treat, and on and on.”

In fact, patients receiving that improved treatment will include actual study volunteers, because Generations will provide those who give blood samples with the relevant personal genetic information that it finds. “There’s a possibility that you will learn something about your own health and disease risks that could benefit you,” said Michael F. Murray, MD, professor of genetics and director for clinical operations in Yale’s Center for Genomic Health. “In just a couple of months, we give that information back to you and then guide you to get preventive care.” Murray said that in about 3% of participants, risks of cancer or heart disease will turn up that they probably didn’t know about. “Once they know, they and their doctors can take steps to lower their risk or prevent disease. And that two to three percent will grow over time as we learn more about genetics.”

It is a program exclusive to Yale. “Nobody else has it. Nobody else will develop it and implement it the way we are,” said Richard D’Aquila, president of Yale New Haven Hospital and Yale New Haven Health System, which is comprised of five hospitals, more than 150 ambulatory facilities, numerous physician practices, and other affiliated centers. “It really defines what our hopes and aspirations are for an academically connected health system across the state of Connecticut and beyond.”

Generations builds on a heritage of genetics-related firsts at Yale School of Medicine. Robert J. Alpern, MD, dean and Ensign Professor of Medicine noted that “Yale actually had the foresight decades and decades ago to form the first department of genetics in the country.” Now, with advances both in knowledge and in available technology, he said, “we have the ability to tie it all together, and really participate in what is going to be a revolution in health care, and we’re really looking forward to being a part of it.”

Potential participants can contact Generations at helpusdiscover@yale.edu or 1-877-978-8343.

Submitted by Robert Forman on September 11, 2019