The University of Vermont Health Network, along with partners Invitae and LunaPBC, launched a pilot project on November 1, to offer the Genomic DNA Test as part of its clinical care. The test will provide information for 147 genes that are indicators of increased risk for certain diseases including hereditary cancers, cardiovascular conditions, and other medically important disorders for which clinical treatment guidelines are established. The test also screens for carrier status for other diseases.
“Our overall health and longevity are determined about 30% by genetics,” said Debra Leonard, M.D, Ph.D., chair, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at UVM Health in a press release. “But until now, most of our clinical health care decisions have been made without understanding the differences in each individual’s DNA that could help guide those decisions.”
The Genomic DNA Test will be offered over the next year to 1,000 patients who are over 18 years old, are treated by a UVM Health Network Family Medicine provider, are not pregnant, or the partner of someone who is currently pregnant, and are part of the OneCare Vermont Accountable Care Organization (ACO). The testing will be conducted by Invitae on healthy individuals who opt in to the pilot and will be provided with information about their potential risk of developing diseases like cancer or heart disease based on their genetic make-up, with the potential to adjust their healthcare and lifestyle to help mitigate some of these risks.
“Nearly one-in-six healthy individuals exhibit a genetic variant for which instituting or altering medical management is warranted,” said Robert Nussbaum, M.D., Invitae’s chief medical officer in a prepared statement. “Genetic screening like the Genomic DNA Test in a population health setting can help identify these risk factors so clinicians can better align disease management and prevention strategies for each patient.”
The test and any pre- and post-test genetic counseling services will be provided to pilot project participants at no charge and results will become a part of each patient’s medical record and available to the patient and all of his or her healthcare providers.
In addition to providing patient-specific information that can help determine health and wellness decisions, patient genomic data can also be used in for broader research applications that are helping to unravel the genetic basis for a number of diseases.
Patients who are interested in making their data available for research purposes can share their data through LunaDNA, the sharing platform of pilot project partner LunaPBC. Patients who choose to share their data with researchers will become shareholders in LunaPBC, a public benefit corporation owned by the individuals who provide their genomic data to the company. Data provided by LunaDNA to researchers I de-identified to protect the privacy of its member-owners. In the future the patients will also be able to share—and receive additional LunaPBC share for—lifestyle, nutrition and environmental data.
“Vermonters who choose to share their genomic data for research will play a leading role in the advancement of precision medicine,” said Dawn Barry, LunaPBC president and co-founder. “This effort puts patients first to create a virtuous cycle for research that doesn’t sacrifice patients’ control or privacy. We are proud to bring our values as a public benefit corporation and community-owned platform to this partnership.”
According to UVM Health, the pilot program, run through the ACO is a step toward moving to a value-based healthcare system.
“Vermont and other states are moving away from ‘fee-for-service’ health care and toward a system that emphasizes prevention, keeping people healthy, and treating illness at its earliest stages,” Leonard said. “Integrating genetic risks into clinical care will help patients and providers in their decision-making.”