Using Genetic Research to Improve Veteran Healthcare
PRA Health Sciences
PRA Health Sciences

To date, more than a half million veterans have enrolled in the world’s largest genomic database linked to a health care system. The Million Veteran Program (MVP) aims to learn more about how genes affect health in order to improve health care for veterans.

Parallel6, a PRA Health Sciences company, was awarded a contract in September for the MVP Software as a Service (SaaS) Veteran Enrollment and Engagement Platform. David Turner, President and Co-Founder shares his insights on how MVP research findings may lead to new ways of preventing and treating illness.

What is the Million Veteran Program?

The Million Veteran Program (MVP) is a national, voluntary research program aiming to study how genes affect health by building one of the world's largest medical databases by safely collecting blood samples and health information from one million Veterans. The MVP is funded and overseen by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Office of Research and Development (ORD) and is coordinated by the Massachusetts Veterans Epidemiology Research and Information Center (MAVERIC) and other program units within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

How does it work?

MVP is part of the White House’s Precision Medicine Initiative. It partners with veterans receiving services in the VA health care system who volunteer to share their health information, as well as genetic material. Currently Participant enrollment and follow up is purely site base, utilizing 50 participating VA medical facilities and their affiliated community-based sites. Once the Parallel6 Clinical6 platform goes live, Participants will be asked to:

  • Enroll and consent online to participate in the study
  • Fill out electronic surveys about health and health-related behaviors
  • Provide blood samples containing DNA (and other substances) that can be stored for future genomic analyses
  • Allow secure access to VA and VA-linked medical and health information, including past and future health records
  • Stay engaged in the program and be informed or future studies using the MVP mobile app, powered by Clinical6.

Participant privacy is a top priority. All DNA samples and health information are stored without any identifying information (name, address, date of birth, or social security number).

Why is participation important?

In order to learn more about the role that genes play in a variety of illnesses, or how genes might affect how people respond to certain medications and treatments, researchers need the ability to compare genetic and health information from many people. The more veteran participants there are the more access researchers will have which will enable them to gain valuable knowledge to improve health care.

What are we learning?

Several studies are underway ranging on topics from mental health to heart disease. Studies based on MVP data will also look at illnesses common among combat veterans, such as PTSD. MVP leaders are working with the Department of Defense, the National Institutes of Health, and the Department of Energy to further expand the program. Discussions are underway between the VA and the National Cancer Institute to explore how MVP can propel the national Cancer Moonshot and help transform how cancer is treated.

Where do you envision the program 10-20 years from now?

The primary goal of MVP is to enable genomic discoveries that can translate to improvements in the healthcare of Veterans and the nation through the delivery of care through individual genetic, clinical, lifestyle and military-exposure profiles. In 10-20 years, I expect we will see the delivery of better care, with more precise treatments along with a massive amount of data to aid research in the discovery of innovative cures.