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Cohort models debated

Two prominent scientists argue the merits of forming a new 500,000-person cohort versus pooling data from existing studies

Chris Womack
Francis Collins and Walter Willett are debating different models for constructing a huge cohort study resource to investigate the influence of genes and environment: On the pages of this week's Nature, Collins outlines his support for a made-from-scratch cohort of half a million people, while Willett backs a cheaper, faster model that combines existing cohort studies. "If it only cost a few hundred million dollars to start a new cohort, there wouldn't be much of an issue at all," Willett, Chairman of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), told The Scientist. But with a projected cost of $3 billion or more for a study that includes subjects representative of the country's ethnicities and walks of life, "then it's going to displace a lot of other research at a time when research is being hugely squeezed," he said. The National Institutes of...

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