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Davis Journal

Davis County first site for worldwide genetic study

Dec 30, 2020 01:29PM ● By Becky Ginos

BOUNTIFUL—Davis County residents have the opportunity to be among the first to participate in a worldwide genetic study that will help researchers find genetic causes for diseases like heart disease, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.

The HerediGene: Population Study is one of the largest healthcare genomics study from a single population in the world, according to Intermountain Healthcare (IHC) who is collaborating with deCode genetics of Iceland to be part of the study.

“Before the study in 2013 – 2014 IHC had programs that implemented precision health practices in genomics cancer specifically and a lot of other different diseases,” said Dr. Bryce Moulton, Senior Director for Clinical Research, Intermountain Precision Genomics. “deCode heard about the great work we were doing and thought it would be a great way to combine the strengths of both organizations.”

deCode does really well with population genetics research, he said. “They have labs and computational power. They publish in journals, etc. but they’re not a healthcare institution – that’s where ICH comes into play.”

IHC’s number one priority is to treat patients, Moulton said. “We’re able to do that with genetics based off of best practices and take that research and apply it in a real world healthcare setting. The two institutions came together to start the HerediGene study.”

The HerediGene Study covers an entire population of residents, he said. “This is unprecedented in a place like Utah. We’re fortunate to take part in this study. We get to apply this to the community and our patients. Hopefully, it will improve our patients’ care – right in a community like Bountiful.”

Davis County is one of the first sites for the study. “We know Davis County has a large, diverse population and continues to grow,” said Moulton.  

Participants can take part in the study at the lab inside the Bountiful Clinic. “It’s like scheduling a dentist appointment,” he said. “You go in and get the procedure done.”

When a patient walks in they’re greeted by the study team, Moulton said. “We get informed consent. It’s important to note that it’s voluntary. It has to be their own decision and that there’s no pressure and they haven’t been influenced to participate.”

It takes about five to 10 minutes. “They draw two tubes of blood, about two and half teaspoons in total by a trained phlebotomist,” he said. “There may be opportunities to participate in other ways in the future.”

Moulton said the results may also find something patients don’t know about that are actionable. “There may be pathogenic mutations that have always caused symptoms that they already know about. But in some cases they might have a mutation that they just didn’t know about and we can catch it early so we can treat it.”

Only two to three percent will have the mutation in their DNA that can be treated, he said. “Most patients won’t get their results back but a small percentage will. They’ll be contacted and someone will walk them through what they need to do.”

Those who want to participate in the study can sign up right away by going into the clinic. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Moulton. “There’s not many studies this large of whole genome sequencing. We’re excited with the success we’ve had so far – we hope to continue that.”