In Our DNA SC, first-of-its-kind population genomics program in South Carolina, expands to drive preventive, precision health care
Large-scale initiative seeks to improve health outcomes, advance innovative research
CHARLESTON, SC. March 21, 2022 -- The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and Helix have announced the next phase of their first-of-its-kind population genomics initiative in South Carolina called In Our DNA SC. The large-scale research program is designed to improve health care outcomes by integrating genetic insights into clinical care and research. The statewide initiative will enroll 100,000 patients in genetic testing over the next four years at no cost to patients.
Enrollment in the In Our DNA SC program is now expanding to include MUSC employees and qualified South Carolinians over age 18. This spring, MUSC care providers and research teams will bring the simple saliva test to patients around the state through community events designed to enable convenient sample collection and a new pathway to better understand an individual’s health risks. Participants will also have the option to have a saliva test kit mailed directly to their home. Participants receiving a positive result for any of the tested health risks will be provided an opportunity to meet with an MUSC Health genetic counselor at no cost. More information about the program, including how to sign up, is available at https://web.musc.edu/inourdnasc.
Historically, genetic testing has numerous barriers to access, including cost, geographic location and availability within care provider settings. In Our DNA SC, with the help of MUSC’s clinical affiliates and partners, seeks to break down those barriers. Additionally, participants who consent to securely contribute their genetic data will help MUSC and Helix develop one of the largest genomic resources in the country that will be used to pioneer and further advance preventative patient care and research. At no time will the information be sold, shared or provided to third parties.
A critical component to advancing precision medicine is involving more patients from historically underrepresented and vulnerable populations, a key focus of the In Our DNA SC program.
“Precision medicine is about getting away from the one-size-fits-all approach to treatment for medical conditions. It will enable patients and providers to learn more about how their genetic ‘fingerprint,’ can be understood and used to design the best disease prevention and treatment plans possible,” said David J. Cole, M.D., FACS, MUSC president. “We need to transform health care delivery and outcomes, especially regarding health disparities that are so prevalent in South Carolina. It’s MUSC’s privilege and responsibility to lead our state into a future that results in access to personalized medicine for all of our citizens.”
The first phase of the research program focused on patients within selected MUSC clinics. The expansion will enable participation for all qualified South Carolinians over the age of 18; being an MUSC patient is not required and participants can have their samples collected at a number of MUSC clinics across the state, at future local community events, or via a home collection kit shipped directly to them. Both phases provide actionable information regarding a patient’s risk for certain forms of cancer and cardiovascular disease. The genetic reports allow patients and their health providers to develop precision health care plans to proactively mitigate the conditions and take a more preventive approach to patient care.
MUSC and Helix are in the initial stages of developing a robust genomic dataset from consenting participants that will help researchers learn what can cause certain diseases, how to treat them more effectively and, possibly, improve the standard care for everyone. This is expected to lay the groundwork for a broader collaboration with other organizations across the health care spectrum.
The strategic relationship with Helix allows MUSC to leverage Helix’s unique Sequence Once, Query Often TM model and its end-to-end integration platform to enable immediate application and continual on-demand use of genetic insights throughout a patient’s life. By collaborating with South Carolina’s only comprehensive academic health sciences center, Helix has the opportunity to work with thousands of providers and research staff dedicated to understanding how to deliver the highest quality patient care available to serve the people of South Carolina and beyond.
“We are thrilled to be able to expand the number of participants that can join this initiative. From similar programs, we’ve seen 1 in 75 people are at risk for a serious health issue, of which 90 percent are not discovered through traditional practice,” said James Lu, M.D., Ph.D., CEO and co-founder of Helix. "By expanding access, MUSC will be providing essential preventative services at point of care to all of the communities it reaches.”
Founded in 1824 in Charleston, MUSC is the state’s only comprehensive academic health system, with a unique mission to preserve and optimize human life in South Carolina through education, research and patient care. Each year, MUSC educates more than 3,000 students in six colleges – Dental Medicine, Graduate Studies, Health Professions, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy – and trains more than 850 residents and fellows in its health system. MUSC brought in more than $327.6 million in research funds in fiscal year 2021, leading the state overall in research funding. MUSC also leads the state in federal and National Institutes of Health funding, with more than $220 million. For information on academic programs, visit musc.edu.
As the health care system of the Medical University of South Carolina, MUSC Health is dedicated to delivering the highest-quality and safest patient care while educating and training generations of outstanding health care providers and leaders to serve the people of South Carolina and beyond. Patient care is provided at 14 hospitals with approximately 2,500 beds and five additional hospital locations in development; more than 350 telehealth sites, with connectivity to patients’ homes; and nearly 750 care locations situated in all regions of South Carolina. In 2021, for the seventh consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report named MUSC Health the No. 1 hospital in South Carolina. To learn more about clinical patient services, visit muschealth.org.
MUSC and its affiliates have collective annual budgets totaling $4.4 billion. The nearly 25,000 MUSC team members include a world-class faculty, physicians, specialty providers, scientists, students, affiliates and care team members who deliver and support groundbreaking education, research and patient care.
Helix is the leading population genomics and viral surveillance company operating at the intersection of clinical care, research, and data analytics. Helix enables health systems, life sciences companies, payers, and government partners to accelerate the integration of genomic data into patient care and public health decision making. Learn more at www.helix.com.
Helix: Jaclyn Eng, firstname.lastname@example.org
MUSC: Heather Woolwine, email@example.com