The U.S. Veterans Affairs Department announced with fanfare and a high-gloss, video-enhanced news release Thursday afternoon that it was jumping into a new genomics research effort.
The initiative, billed as the Million Veteran Program, will be run by the Veterans Affairs Research and Development Program as "a trailblazing VA effort to consolidate genetic, military-exposure, health and lifestyle information together in one single database," according to the release.
Veterans' participation in the research effort will be voluntary. Those who choose to participate will be asked to give a blood sample and complete a questionnaire on their family and medical history as well as grant access to their past and future medical records.
The information added to the database will then be de-identified, and database access will be granted only to VA researchers and those given authorization from federal health agencies and U.S. academic institutions "to conduct health and wellness studies to determine which genetic variations are associated with particular health issues," according to the VA.
"By identifying gene-health connections, the program could consequentially advance disease screening, diagnosis and prognosis and point the way toward more effective, personalized therapies," the release stated.
"It is my honor to join with so many fellow veterans in keeping VA at the leading edge of genomics research," VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said in the release. "This innovative research program will support the VA's mission to provide veterans and their families with the care they have earned."