Inside the Drive to Collect DNA from 1M Veterans and Revolutionize Medicine

Jeffrey Delviscio, Alex Hogan, Hyacinth Empinado and Alissa Ambrose | Fox News | September 15, 2016

The Department of Veterans Affairs is gathering blood from 1 million veterans and sequencing their DNA. At the same time, computer scientists are creating a database that combines those genetic sequences with electronic medical records and other information about veterans’ health. The ultimate goal of the project, known as the Million Veteran Program, is to uncover clues about disorders ranging from diabetes to post-traumatic stress disorder.

Since its launch in 2010, the VA has spent $30 million building and running MVP. Caring for 8.76 million veterans enrolled in the Veterans Health Administration, it has a strong interest in understanding the role that genes play in the diseases they develop. The VA is also uniquely situated to carry out this kind of project, in part because veterans tend to have medical records in the system that stretch back decades. But the research being done as part of the MVP — which has already enrolled more than 420,000 participants — could have implications that reach far beyond the VA.

“We’re working in a space where no has ever worked before on this scale,” said Dr. Michael Gaziano, one of the principal investigators of the Million Veteran Program. If the project develops as planned, it could fuel discoveries for years to come, leading to new medical treatments not just for veterans, but for all patients. “We hope that folks who follow us come up with ideas that we can’t even think of right now,” said Dr. John Concato, the other principal investigator on the program...