Northern Nevada made history 18 months ago with the introduction of a first-of-its kind,
community-based population health study. In March 2018, the project expanded to become one of the largest population health studies in the country.
The Healthy Nevada Project is making history again with the opening of phase two genomic sequencing to an additional 40,000 northern Nevadans, bringing the study’s total participation to 50,000 residents and making it one of the largest population health studies in the country.
“From the start, this project has been focused on improving health statewide,” says Anthony Slonim, M.D., Dr.PH., FACHE, president and CEO of Renown Health and president of Renown Institute for Health Innovation (Renown IHI). “We are now not only seeing those results, but also acting on them. Healthcare organizations around the country are moving from solely providing care inside hospital walls to improving health outcomes across communities. It starts with health literacy, and this is the largest health literacy project in the country. We are helping people understand their risks and getting involved at the clinical level to help them live healthier lives.”
When Renown Health and the Desert Research Institute (DRI), partnered to launch the project in September 2016, 10,000 community members signed up in just 48 hours and DNA sample collection was completed in 69 working days.
For the second phase, research teams will have greater depth and quality of DNA data thanks to a partnership with Helix, a personal genomics company that uses Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) technology instead of genotyping and operates one of the world’s largest CAP- and CLIA-accredited exome sequencing labs. The Helix.com marketplace model will also enable the Healthy Nevada Project to work with other research groups and industry-leading companies at the forefront of using genetics to drive better health outcomes.
“Nevada is leading the country in growth and innovation. But sadly, we continue to rank among the worst in regards to health at 47th in the nation,” says Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, the pilot study’s first participant. “Through the Healthy Nevada Project, we now have the gift of insight to make needed changes — not just for ourselves and our loved ones — but for Nevada.”
In phase two, an additional 40,000 Nevadans are invited to test using Helix’s proprietary NGS pipeline. Helix’s Exome+ assay testing reads all 20,000 protein-coding genes and other regions in the genome important to providing genetic insights which allows for 100 times more data.
Study volunteers will take Helix’s DNA saliva test and automatically receive access to the popular Helix-powered ancestry app, Geno 2.0 by National Geographic, and a Helix.com account that lets them explore additional DNA-powered products on the Helix App store. If study participants choose to complete a follow-up survey from the Healthy Nevada Project, they will have the chance to pick an additional health and wellness app specific to their individual genetic results.
Renown IHI is opening 10,000 testing slots to any northern Nevadan interested in taking part. Once those 10,000 slots are filled, researchers will focus on matching the demographics that comprise northern Nevada. This means study participants will be eligible based on specific demographic variables including: gender, age group, ethnicity and rural versus urban residents.
“Fitting these criteria will ensure this population health study mirrors the people of northern Nevada,” says Joseph Grzymski, Ph.D., senior director of the DRI Applied Innovation Center; co-director of Renown IHI; and principal investigator of the Healthy Nevada Project. “Thanks to years of research, we know gender, age and ethnicity all play key roles in a person’s health risks. By accurately representing our region, we will be able to better understand the health issues we’re seeing communitywide and how to address them.”
In the years ahead, Renown IHI aspires to offer genetic testing through the Healthy Nevada Project to every Nevadan interested in learning more about their health and genetic profile, and ultimately, drive positive health outcomes statewide. Simultaneously, the Healthy Nevada Project will expand the state’s access to leading-edge clinical trials and foster new connections with biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies.
To see if you are eligible to participate in the study, to sign up for study updates and for full details on the Healthy Nevada Project, please visit HealthyNV.org.