Kaiser Permanente collecting patient data for DNA Research Bank

Participants will provide access to their electronic health records, offering data that can inform studies into genetic and environmental factors.
By Mike Miliard
11:51 AM
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Kaiser Permanente headquarters in Oakland, California.

Kaiser Permanente this week launched a new database that enables researchers to examine participants' DNA in conjunction with environmental and behavioral health.

Kaiser members across eight states and the District and Columbia can participate in the research bank, which aims to spur new diagnoses and treatment plans. The goal, officials say, is to gather data from 500,000 participants across Kaiser's seven regions – creating one of the biggest and most diverse repositories of genetic, environmental, and health data in the world.

To date, more than 220,000 members from four geographic regions have enlisted with KP's biobank initiatives.

"One of the ways the Kaiser Permanente Research Bank is unique from other efforts is that in addition to DNA samples, we ask our participants about behavioral and environmental factors," said Sarah Rowell, associate director of the research bank, in a press statement.

"That means we're able to connect this information with data from the patient's electronic medical record, which could allow us to make discoveries that just aren't possible with other research resources," she added.

Researchers may study whether a person's DNA influences how they respond to certain hypertension drugs, or how genetic and environmental factors might influence diabetes and cancer. Second-hand smoke, neighborhood violence, environmental pollution, financial security and access to healthy food are other factors that could be studied.

Participating KP members will be asked to fill out a consent form granting access to their EHR, complete a brief health survey, and provide a blood sample, officials say. Their data will be kept private, secure and confidential, and participation will not affect healthcare coverage or become part of their medical record.