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A biomedical research program in Lex this week focuses on those underrepresented among 'All of Us'

Arlo Barnette

A traveling exhibit at Transylvania University offers the chance to take part in an ambitious health research initiative with a focus on diversity.

"So, the All of Us Research Program is the largest research program from the National Institutes of Health."
Mel Lopez, Tour Manager, All of Us Research Program

Mel Lopez is Tour Manager for the All of Us Research Program, the NIH’s 10-year precision medicine study that aims to enroll a million participants in a nationwide biomedical database at Mayo Clinic, which will be a resource for researchers.

The initiative has toured the country for the last four years, and so far there have been more than 491,000 participants, some of whom contributed biosamples like blood, urine, or saliva. Genetic info is returned and interpreted for free to those who want it.

Participants who'd rather not provide biosamples can take part by answering surveys about health and lifestyle information, or by providing access to their electronic medical records.

Lopez says they’re not going to sell the information, and participant privacy is protected from researchers.

"Traditionally, not everybody has been invited to participate in research. Myself–I'm a female and I'm also Mexican-American, first generation. My family makes up eighteen percent (18%) of the population yet we're only represented in five percent (5%) of clinical trials. What does that mean? That means that when I go to the doctor or I go to the clinic, the treatment I receive isn't made specifically for me, because my healthcare provider does not know the uniqueness of my genetics, my environment, and my lifestyle."
Mel Lopez, Tour Manager, All of Us Research Program

Lopez says more than eighty percent (80%) of participants so far belong to communities that have been historically underrepresented in biomedical research, including fifty percent (50%) from racial and ethnic minority groups. More information here.

The exhibit, which includes tablet games and interactive info, is set up in the parking area next to Transy’s Graham Cottage Alumni House on North Broadway. It’s open 11:00am-6:00pm on Thursday and 11:00am-5:00pm on Friday.