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Kaiser Permanente Cashes In on Biobank Plans

Health care provider Kaiser Permanente has finally landed the money it needed to fulfill plans for a massive DNA biobank. It has just announced receiving an $8.6 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that should allow the company to put together 500,000 DNA samples, along with health and environmental information about their donors. The intent is to ferret out the causes of and develop personalized treatments for common conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

The expanded biobank will be among the largest and will join several in Europe and one in Canada. It beats to the punch the National Children's Study, which has undergone delay after delay in enrolling 100,000 U.S. children.

The biobank will be run by Catherine Schaefer, director of Kaiser Permanente's Research Program on Genes, Environment and Health, and Neil Risch, a professor of human genetics at the University of California, San Francisco. The repository already contains 200,000 DNA samples and hopes to meet the 500,000 mark by 2012 now that funding is in place.