Archive for: August 2009

A Milestone at Kaiser Permanente's "Biobank"

Aug 31, 2009, 5:22 AM, Posted by RWJF Blog Team

The Kaiser Permanente Research Program on Genes, Environment and Health (RPGEH)has reached a major milestone in its development of the United States’ largest repository of genetic, environmental and health data. As of August 2009, the Kaiser “biobank” holds more than 100,000 DNA samples, meaning it has the capacity to begin to enable researchers to reveal the environmental and genetic factors behind many deadly diseases, and to support research that could lead to better treatments.
In December 2008, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, through its Pioneer Portfolio, awarded Kaiser’s Northern California Division of Research $8.6 million to help gather, store and protect the biobank’s first 200,000 DNA samples, and to build a secure database with relevant health and environmental information. RWJF’s and Kaiser’s shared goal is to, by 2012, expand this population-based database to 500,000 samples, a volume that would present enough statistical power to identify even subtle effects of environmental and genetic factors in less common health conditions, such as mental health disorders or autoimmune diseases, and make the RPGEH one of the largest population-based biobanks in the world. 

The RPGEH, directed by Catherine Schaefer, Ph.D., and Neil J. Risch, Ph.D., and based in Kaiser’s 3.3-million-member medical care plan in Northern California, is one of the first biobanks to include environmental and genetic information collected from a broad array of populations. As soon as fall 2009, the RPGEH will be used for a study that will investigate genetic and nongenetic factors that put African-American men at higher risk for prostate cancer. It will also be used for a large study of bipolar disorder, a mental illness that can increase risk of suicide.
This groundbreaking effort will ultimately provide researchers access to DNA from people of diverse ethnicities, with and without health problems, in numbers that provide the statistical significance to draw evidence-based conclusions from this complex information. Scientists will have a powerful new resource to discover which genes and environmental factors, and lifestyles and habits, are linked to specific diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, asthma, mental health disorders, and others – increasing our medical system’s ability to not only deliver the best possible treatments, but to help people from all backgrounds avoid getting sick in the first place. Learn more at

A Project ECHO Announcement

Aug 20, 2009, 5:30 AM, Posted by RWJF Blog Team

Last month in Pioneering Ideas, Dr. Sanjeev Arora discussed how substantive changes to health care delivery systems are crucial to achieve meaningful reform and cost savings.  Arora is director of Project ECHO, a program in New Mexico that uses evidence-based medicine and interactive technology to deliver specialty care to patients in remote, rural areas of the state.

Expanding on other telehealth programs, Project ECHO engages doctors, nurses, assistants and community health educators in different parts of New Mexico in education and training, ultimately allowing them to work together to reach patients who, in many cases, would otherwise not receive care. Since 2004, the program has enabled more than 4,000 people, most of them poor, to be treated for Hepatitis C – the deadly but curable disease that was the focus of the program's launch.

Project ECHO is a great example of innovation making an impact in health care.  We believe it’s a model that can be used anywhere there are underserved, high-risk populations, which is why we are excited to announce the award of a new three-year, $5 million grant to the program.

The grant will support an extension of the ECHO model, this time out of the University of Washington in Seattle, and the expansion to other common chronic diseases including, among other, diabetes, substance abuse, and high-risk pregnancy.

For all the details, click here.

A Round-Up From Our Blog Roll

Aug 13, 2009, 4:48 AM, Posted by RWJF Blog Team

If it has been awhile since you’ve checked out our blog roll, you should scroll over to the right-hand column.  There are some great blogs on the list – including those run by Pioneer grantees.  Some thoughtful highlights from this week:

And don’t forget to follow Pioneer on Twitter if you aren’t already.