By Christine Zeindler
“Biomedical research relating to complex diseases often requires data from huge numbers of study participants – and the resources required regularly exceed what can be provided by any single study,” says Bartha Maria Knoppers, Director of McGill’s Centre of Genomics and Policy. Enter P3G, the Public Population Project in Genomics and Society, an international consortium whose mission is to bring together different sources of data and harmonize them so that they are usable and accessible to researchers.
“P3G is the power of many,” says Knoppers, who is also the Chair of the P3G Board. “We are leading and coordinating efforts on how to facilitate access and use of large population studies. For example, today, through the use of P3G tools and software, data can be synthesized from over six million study participants in 53 large cohorts in Europe, North America and Asia.These numbers are quite powerful.”
This fall, P3G, moved to McGill University and the Secretariat-Observatory is now part of the Research Institute for the McGill University Health Centre (RI -MUHC).
“McGill’s reputation for international leadership and long standing tradition of incubating international projects and the RI- MUHC’s stewardship in visionary health research, including projects in personalized medicine, is a perfect fit for our organization,” says Knoppers.
Less than five years ago, P3G consisted only of the three founding Charter members. Funded by Genome Quebec and Genome Canada, P3G engaged with international experts to identify and meet the challenges raised by new emerging datasets. P3G now proudly boasts a membership of 31 Charter members, 16 associate members and more than 300 Individual members.
“Forty-nine countries are taking part in our activities: a testimony to the idiom that from humble beginnings, great things will come,” says Isabel Fortier, P3G’s Director Research and Development and of its Harmonization Programme at the RI-MUHC.
Milestones include the establishment of collaborations and partnerships with major biobanking organizations and the development of a publicly accessible knowledge-based website where tools and information are freely accessible. P3G has also developed a series of scientific, ethico-legal and educational tools, which promote optimal biobank design and facilitate information sharing. Promotion of the development of infrastructure science in Canada has also been a priority.
The P3G Secretariat-Observatory is the ‘carrefour stratégique’ where international network, tools and know-how will be identified, coordinated, and validated. The work of P3G places McGill and the RI-MUHC at the forefront of this crucial international effort and will benefit from these resources.
“We are thrilled with the support and hospitality we have received from our new hosts and are looking forward to a productive year,” says Knoppers.
Two P3G signed memorandums of understanding, one with McGill and one with the RI MUHC, suggest that P3G will has started on the right foot.
To find out more about P3G, visit www.p3g.org/secretariat/index.shtml.