GREENSBORO -The hope has always been that genetic testing can lead to not only better health care but also to preventing many health problems in the first place. That hope is going to be put to the test in a five-year research study in the North Carolina Triad.
Helix, a leading population genomics company in the nation, and Cone Health, a not-for-profit health care network serving people in the North Carolina Piedmont region, will launch a population genomics testing program. The study will put precision medicine to work in Alamance, Forsyth, Guilford, Rockingham and Randolph counties and beyond.
The joint project will enroll 100,000 healthy people over a 5-year period. Genetic testing will provide medical insights for Cone Health patients using Helix’s population genomics platform. It is expected that the study will result in better, more effective care for people who develop health conditions and information that people and their providers can use to potentially delay, reduce or even prevent illness. The program will also help Cone Health uncover what risks might be occurring at disproportionate levels within communities, better understand the health of the overall population and build wellness programs for the broader community.
Enrollment in the program is optional and at no cost. Participants will be screened for genetic predisposition for certain diseases and conditions, such as breast and ovarian cancer, colorectal cancer and high cholesterol. Nationwide, nearly five million people are at an increased risk of one of these conditions because of a genetic mutation.
“We’re ready to work together on the positive, life-changing impact this partnership will have on our community members,” says Marlon Priest, MD, Chief Clinical Officer at Cone Health. “This collaborative effort touches everything from our high-quality heart care services to our commitment to health equity across our communities.”
With its end-to-end genomics platform, Helix works with health systems across the nation to identify people at risk for diseases and conditions based on inherited genetic mutations. The Cone Health program will be one of the largest population health efforts in the region, enabling all participants and their health care providers to receive important information about their potential risks today and in the future.
Beyond what’s included in this program, Helix will also provide Cone Health with genetic panels for additional health conditions. Thanks to its unique Sequence Once, Query OftenⓇ model, individual patients can have future genetic tests run without the need for an additional sample. This will give them, and their providers, access to ongoing genomic insights about their health throughout their lifetime.
“Partnering with Cone Health, one of the region’s largest and most comprehensive health networks will provide vital information about whether patients have an increased risk of disease. That impact can reverberate through North Carolina families for future generations,” said James Lu, M.D., Ph.D., Helix’s Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder. “Cone Health is enabling the future of medicine through this program, helping individuals work with their doctors to take greater control of their health. We are proud to partner with them to positively impact public health across the state.”
Cone Health joins Helix’s fast-growing group of population genomics partners across the United States. These programs have already begun having an impact on patients’ health decisions, and the company is on pace to test millions of Americans in coming years.