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May 26

In his 2015 state of the union message President Obama announced his Precision Medicine Initiative, an ambitious plan to harness our knowledge of the human genome to improve medicine and fight disease on a national basis. The National Institutes of Health is spearheading the effort and for the past year has been organizing the foundational elements. Today, NIH formally announced that a major cornerstone – the Precision Medicine Initiative Cohort Program biobank – will be based at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. (see Mayo Clinic News Network for details).

While the NIH announcement did not specify the reasons why Mayo Clinic was chosen to host and operate the biobank, one may assume factors included its expertise in medical genomics and a wide range of supporting infrastructure:

  • The experience and example of the Mayo Clinic Biobank, begun several years ago and already serving as a research resource. That biobank houses a state-of-the-science freezer complex, already capable of holding a million blood or serum samples.
  • The expansive intake and accession capabilities already in place, due to Mayo Medical Laboratories and its ability to receive and process up to 40,000 air-expressed medical samples daily.

While the PMI biobank will involve more than 1 million participants from across the country who will have volunteered their DNA samples to advance medical research, the biobank facility will house more than 35 million samples. These will be radio tagged and systematically stored in a secure, robot-equipped freezer.

Leaders from NIH and the Department of Health and Human Services toured Mayo’s facilities earlier this year. Mayo will receive $142 million over five years for the project. Discovery’s Edge will carry more details on development of the biobank as it proceeds through planning, construction, dedication and operation.