Tech Veteran Named CTO of NIH's All of Us Research Program

June 2, 2017
Tech Veteran Named CTO of NIH's All of Us Research Program
Chris Lunt, a veteran technology executive with experience in Silicon Valley and the federal government, will work with partners nationwide to develop technologies that securely gather and integrate that data into a growing collection for broad research use. (Source: NIH)

Chris Lunt, a veteran technology executive with experience in Silicon Valley and the federal government, has been named CTO for NIH’s All of Us Research Program, the recently renamed research cohort piece of the Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI) designed to glean health and wellness data from 1 million or more Americans.

In his new role, Lunt will lead efforts to build an engagement and digital data platform intended to enable thousands of studies based on the data, to be obtained voluntarily from the million-plus Americans of diverse backgrounds.

All of Us plans to gather data from surveys, electronic health records, biosamples, physical measurements, wearable technologies, and other sources—a key component of a medical research effort intended to better prevent and treat disease based on individual differences in lifestyle, environment, and genetics.

That effort was previously known as the Precision Medicine Initiative Cohort, and renamed in February.

Lunt will work with partners nationwide to develop technologies that securely gather and integrate that data into a growing collection for broad research use. He will also develop analytic approaches and visualization methods that allow researchers of many types to explore and understand the All of Us dataset, the NIH said.

Enrollment in All of Us is expected to start this year, and take place one of two ways: Volunteers will either enroll in the study directly—350,000 people were projected last year to do so—or through a healthcare provider organization.

NIH disclosed the most recent award related to All of Us on March 6, when Vibrent Health was selected to develop applications and websites for volunteers to enroll in the program, provide data, and receive updates. NIH envisioned a first-year award of $8 million for the work when the funding opportunity was announced in November 2015, with future-year amounts to depend on annual appropriations. Vibrent is also expected to support ongoing testing and upgrades to improve the user experience, implement innovative participant tools, and ensure the security of all participant-facing systems.

Last October, the Scripps Research Institute said its funding increased to $207 million in an expansion of a five-year funding award reflecting expanded responsibility for enrollment of participants in All of Us.

That funding is intended to support enrollment of participants in All of Us, as well as create a Participant Technologies Center (PTC), designed to develop, test, maintain, and upgrade the mobile applications and technology platform that will be used to enroll, consent, collect data from, communicate with, and retain participants. The PTC will also develop parallel platforms to deliver these functions to participants without smartphones.

PMI was launched in 2015 by then-President Barack Obama. In May, his successor, President Donald Trump, signed a budget agreement that increased funding for PMI by 60% (from $120 million to $320 million) for the current federal fiscal year, which ends September 30. But in the proposed budget for FY 2018, Trump’s administration set aside only $100 million for PMI, all of it through the 21st Century Cures Act, which authorized a total $1.5 billion over 10 years for All of Us.

Lunt previously served for four years as vice president, government solutions, for GetInsured, where he worked with the federal government, states, and the vendor community to improve health insurance shopping and enrollment systems. He has more than 20 years of experience designing web services and other data platforms, and spent the last decade working as a technology executive.

According to his LinkedIn profile, he served from 2012–13 on appointment to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, where he designed and delivered cloud infrastructure for Medicaid and CHIP eligibility and helped with the launch of the Affordable Care Act.

“I’m looking forward to working collaboratively with our partners to build a platform that supports research on new ways to improve health,” Lunt stated.