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Right drug. Right dose. Right patient.

Scott J. Hebbring, the top principal investigator for All of Us Research Program Wisconsin, breaks down the field of pharmacogenomics and the research that goes into it.

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“I want to make discoveries so we can better understand how diseases happen and how we can prevent them and treat them,” Hebbring said.

Photo provided by All of Us

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Ask Scott J. Hebbring to explain what in the world pharmacogenomics is and watch his eyes light up like a child’s. That’s because the top principal investigator for All of Us Research Program Wisconsin grew up with a wide-eyed fascination with what makes people, and things, tick.

“While other kids were out playing sports, I was home watching Mr. Wizard’s World,” said Hebbring, who earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology. “I was that kid in the backyard turning over rocks to see what’s lurking beneath. As I grew older, I was more interested in turning over the more metaphorical rocks, which is what science is about now.”

The 4-1-1 on pharmacogenomics

The research scientist for the Center for Precision Medicine Research at Marshfield Clinic Research Institute hopes others may be equally intrigued by how medicine interacts with our inherited genes. That’s pharmacogenomics, plain and simple.

Pharmacogenomics is a non-invasive test that tells your doctors what DNA markers you have and can help rule in and rule out medications. It can not only impact the type of drug to prescribe, but pharmacogenomics may help your physician prescribe the right dose. It can even help avoid side effects of medications.

“Roughly 80% of the population at some point will take one or more medications that may be impacted by the genetics they inherited,” Hebbring explains. “And oftentimes these medications may be contraindicated based on their genetics.”

Knowing how your body interacts with certain medications is just one complimentary report given to participants in All of Us — an ambitious effort to gather health data from one million+ people living in the country to accelerate research that may improve health.

What do my genes mean?

That’s one question All of Us hopes to help answer. As a benefit of participating, All of Us offers four genome testing results, including two different health-related DNA results based on whole genome sequencing.

Equally as important, participants receive results on several genes known to affect how the body processes medicine, according to Hebbring. For each gene, participants will discover which variant type they have and what that means. All of Us also provides a list of medicines that may be affected by an individual’s genetics.

Lifesaving knowledge

Hebbring said knowing what’s happening inside your genetic makeup is powerful and possibly lifesaving.

“2-3% of the people will carry genetic risks that put them at high probability of developing a significant disease sometime in their lifetime,” Hebbring said. “And importantly, these are limited to diseases that if you knew about your risks, the hope is that you can prevent some of the worst outcomes through more proactive screening or testing. This is compared to nearly 100% of people that will get a pharmacogenetic report.”

All of Us analyzes seven important genes that can affect how bodies respond to medicines. It also looks for genetic variants in 59 genes associated with serious health conditions, which have available treatment or prevention options (like breast, ovarian, and prostate cancers).

Approximately 98% of participants will get results showing no hereditary disease risk in the 59 genes checked, and can choose to share their DNA results with their family or healthcare provider. Genetic counseling will be available to participants if they have questions, free of charge.

Learn more about how to become an All of Us participant online or by calling 608-263-3683.

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