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National ‘All of Us’ campaign aims to enlist a million genomes for precision medicine

Picture of Eric Dishman

Eric Dishman, director of the All of Us Research Program at the National Institutes of Health, meets the press at the University of Washington. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

Eric Dishman is a living, breathing advertisement for the ambitious experiment he’s in charge of, the National Institutes of Health’s “All of Us” drive to collect and analyze the genomes of a million Americans.

If it weren’t for the fact that he had his genome sequenced seven years ago, he probably would not be living and breathing.

Back then, he was struggling with a rare form of kidney cancer that had put him through decades’ worth of chemotherapy, radiation and misery. And the end was near.

“I was probably going to die, and I was literally on my last business trip to both Boston and San Diego, where a lot of the early genomics work was being done,” Dishman, a former Intel executive, recalled today during a sit-down with journalists at the University of Washington.

During that last business trip, one of his contacts suggested sequencing his genome as well as the genome for his tumor. Dishman figured it couldn’t hurt.

It turned out that the genetic mechanism behind his tumor’s growth was similar to the mechanism behind pancreatic cancer. After taking a drug that’s typically prescribed to treat pancreatic cancer, Dishman was cancer-free and in good shape for a kidney transplant.

“I just turned 50, and I am healthier now at 50 than when I was at 19, thanks to whole-genome sequencing,” Dishman said.

That’s the sort of outcome that Dishman hopes will become more common once the “All of Us” campaign hits its stride. Dishman, who directs the research program, visited UW today to speak at an all-day seminar on personalized medicine.

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