It was the final meeting of the group that was launching the Project Baseline study — a massive enterprise whose goal is to map the many factors that influence human health. The project — a joint effort of Stanford Medicine, Duke University School of Medicine, Verily and Google — plans to enroll some 10,000 participants over the next few years.
On Monday afternoon, a team of researchers crowded around a conference table at Stanford, putting the finishing touches on plans for inducting and welcoming the very first participant. The next morning, a single person would formally enter the study and begin a two-day round of exams. The results would establish a baseline of health for that participant for a multi-year study. And more participants would soon follow.
At the first station, the participant would be welcomed, sign consent forms and have his blood pressure and other vitals measured. “We need to make sure that room is clean and the blood pressure machine is ready to go,” said one team member at the table.
Then it would be off to the restroom for a clean-catch urine sample.
But what would happen if that first participant couldn’t provide a urine sample first thing in the morning? The team needed a system for polite nagging and keeping track of whether that urine sample had actually been collected before a deadline of 2 PM on the first day, when it had to be ready for analysis. Importantly, which bathroom should volunteers use and how could the Baseline team keep other people in their research building from occupying that bathroom at critical moments?
Then, if all went according to plan, the participant would head for the “devices room,” where each Project Baseline study participant will be fitted with a wrist-worn monitor; then the blood draw room, the eye exam room and a test of lung function in a transparent spirometry box.
Two days later, the team celebrated the “first participant in” with a celebration on the patio outside the building in the Palo Alto sunshine. Ken Mahaffey, MD, vice chair of clinical research for Stanford’s Department of Medicine and a PI for the Project Baseline study, grinned in relief. “What a phenomenal accomplishment by a terrific team with a fantastic participant to start our exploration of health and disease,” he said.
The first volunteer in had gone perfectly. But it was no wonder. The team planning it had left nothing to chance, discussing every specific from which staff should wear white lab coats to whether the volunteer’s chest hair would need to be shaved for the EKG. The answer to the latter point? Probably not.
“But don’t hesitate to shave him because we need really good data!” said Sue Swope, RN MS, a clinical research manager for Project Baseline.
Stanford is officially ready to accept more participants for the Project Baseline study. The Stanford team will begin their detailed evaluations of the health of up to four participants at a time beginning in early July.
Previously: Project Baseline study to launch today, Cardiologist Eric Topol on why we need to map the human body and “go deep” with big data and NPR highlights Google’s Baseline Study and what it might teach us about human health
Photo of Sue Swope by Jennie Dusheck