The Genomic Health Initiative (GHI) is a NorthShore-wide effort to collect tens of thousands of DNA samples and add to the current push to transform medicine through genomic research. Since its inception on March 2014, GHI has enrolled more than 13,000 NorthShore participants.
The GHI sample will enable study of the widest range of genetic variants in DNA aimed at identifying genetic risk factors for common disorders. The ultimate goals are to develop early diagnosis, prevention strategies and personalized treatment options to ensure optimal health for individual patients.
Using state-of-the-art techniques for optimal data collection, the GHI team keeps on top of rapidly evolving biomedical technology. Disorders currently under study include cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, obesity, abnormal heart rhythms, glaucoma, psoriasis and others. Community participation is critical to the GHI—participants donate a small blood sample and grant access to their electronic health records.
Findings derived from the GHI have potential to benefit not only individual patients, but also their family members and others through personalized medicine strategies. In some cases, the GHI may expose individual genetic findings directly relevant to the health of participants, such as high risk for some cancers or for certain cardiovascular disorders associated with sudden death. Genetic characteristics that confer risk to severe toxic reactions to some medications may also be revealed by the GHI. In these cases, the GHI team will reach out to individual patients (if the patient chooses to learn this information) and their physicians to share such important findings.
The GHI maintains explicit patient confidentiality and all samples are de-identified with names replaced by random research numbers for study-related data. GHI scientists continue to engage the community at various open events and public forums. Additionally, the GHI serves as a resource for many other key initiatives at NorthShore related to genomic aspects of diagnosing, preventing and treating disease.