DNA banks are becoming more common in the U.S. as scientists are recognizing the need for thousands of DNA samples from diverse populations to find the genes involved in complex conditions. The EPR is one of only a few DNA banks of this size in the U.S. today. The two most notable DNA banks already in existence are the NUgene Project (http://www.nugene.org/) sponsored by Northwestern University (Chicago, Ill) and the Personalized Medicine Research Project (PMRP) (http://www.mfldclin.edu/pmrp/) sponsored by the Marshfield Clinic (Marshfield, Wis). Both the Nugene and PMR Projects aim to recruit 100,000 participants and concurrently collect their health data by reviewing the patient's medical records. Similar to the EPR, participants for these projects are recruited at one of the many hospitals and clinics affiliated with each institution. The information and blood samples collected as part of these DNA registries will be used to examine the roles genes play in the development and treatment of common diseases.
Investigators from these two registries will focus much of their research on the "pharmacogenes". These are genes that modulate the efficacy or toxicity of various therapeutic treatments. Pharmacogenomics or the study of the genetic basis for different drug responses, is a rapidly growing field and will have an enormous impact on the future of health care. Other major institutions in the U.S. that are considering similar DNA projects are the National Human Genome Research Institute, NIH, the Mayo Clinic, and Kaiser Permanente's division in Northern California.
There are many more DNA banks in foreign countries, and these are far bigger and more comprehensive than those in the U.S. The U.K.'s BioBank (http://www.ukbiobank.ac.uk/) is a $73 million project and its objective is to recruit up to 500,000 volunteers ranging from 45 to 69 years in age and prospectively follow them for 10 years through their medical records (within the national health care system). Iceland's deCODE Genetics project has existed for several years and it plans to enroll the majority of that country's 270,000 citizens. Approximately 80,000 citizens have volunteered to date. Investigators working on the deCODE project (http://www.decode.com/) have published major findings of genes associated with arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes, stroke, and numerous other common conditions. Estonia is planning the largest DNA bank yet; they plan to enroll 1 million of the country's citizens into a similar project at a cost of about $90 to $150 million over 10 years. In Estonia, citizens will have access to their own study data. Other international efforts are also already underway or being considered in Japan, Latvia, Germany, Canada, and Singapore.