Last month the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released its first funding proposals for the Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI) Cohort Program. The Cohort is an effort to establish a large nationwide research population on a scale never before tried in the U.S. (possibly as many as a million volunteers or more). The NIH will work with a pilot group early next year, with an eye toward awarding grants next summer to support full implementation with at least 300,000 volunteers.
As you might expect, there are notable demands for infrastructure and administration to make the cohort a truly cohesive research tool. To help with those requirements, the NIH released a Request for Information yesterday with a deadline of January 15. The RFI is focused on strategies for effective collection of biospecimens and baseline physical evaluations of the Cohort volunteers.
Effective collection means ensuring a number of different things are all done properly. Skewing the data generated by the cohort – especially at the beginning – risks torpedoing a significant investment of human resources and funds.
The RFI is looking for advice on how to ensure effective (the list is not exhaustive): distribution of collection kits, standardization of Cohort protocols, quality control and chain of custody for specimen collection, cost control, diversity and participation of volunteers, and processing of collected specimens.
Again, the deadline for comments on the RFI is January 16.