Northwestern Medicine scientists have received a $7.5 million grant from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities to study how genetic information from African American patients can predict their responses to medications.
To date, the vast majority of research exploring genetic variation and drug response – a field called pharmacogenomics and a pillar of the precision medicine movement – has focused exclusively on white populations.
“It’s become evident that the discoveries we’re making in Caucasians do not necessarily apply to minority populations,” said principal investigator Dr. Minoli Perera, associate professor of Pharmacology. “We’re creating a health disparity in which we have the technology to predict people’s responses to medications using their genomes, but the information will only benefit those who are directly studied. We need to accelerate the pace of this work for minorities, so we can catch them up.”
Dr. Perera will work with investigators from the University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago, Stanford University and George Washington University, as well the Washington DC VA Medical Center on the new research.
The five-year grant will support two main projects: One will focus on discovering genetic variation specific to African Americans that can foretell how individuals will react to three common cardiovascular drugs, including Clopidogrel, a drug used to prevent heart disease and strokes. The other project, running in parallel to the first, will translate those findings to patient care.