Iran Cohort Consortium (ICC)

Population-based cohort studies today play a central role in medical research to discover the causes or predictors of diseases for improving public and individual health and the numbers are increasing worldwide. Research collaboration maximizes the benefits of cohort studies like identification of causal risk factors and novel predictors and also derivation and/or validation of prediction models and minimizes the negatives like cohort effects, loss to follow-up, length of time and last but not least cost. Furthermore, benefits of pooling data from multiple cohort studies can enhance the utility of existing projects, sustain their ongoing activities and strengthen requests for further research funding. With regards to these benefits, the frequency of publications using pooled data has increased during last decade. Considering the growing trend of cohort studies, the idea of establishing the Iran Cohort Consortium (ICC) was introduced in 2014 by the Research Institute for Endocrine Sciences (RIES) and the Vice Chancellor for Research and Technology of Ministry of Health and Medical Education. RIES invited all population-based cohort studies from medical Universities in Iran through the Vice Chancellor for Research and the ICC was finally established in 2015 by bringing together most principal investigators of large cohort studies and the representatives of other related organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO) and Iranian Epidemiological Association. The statute of ICC was approved by participating investigators as the founding members. Following this, a selected expert committee reviewed the documents sent by each cohort study and invited eligible population-based cohort studies to join as the original ICC members. At the first collaboration for pooling data, some pioneers of large cohort studies accepted the initiation in the development of a national prediction model for cardiovascular mortality. The national PERSIAN cohort, with over 15 enrollment sites across the country, is a unique source for genomic, environmental and lifestyle information available to investigators; it goes without saying, that this initiative would be more successful in achieving its goals by collaborating with previously existing cohorts on a common robust platform. By merging existing cohorts into a large consortium of cohorts, with a central infrastructure, we could harmonize data types, enhance data collection and provide a resource for addressing unanswered scientific questions which would enable us to develop new patient-powered models that could enhance progress of precision medicine. Consortium involvement however poses several logistical and ethical issues for investigators including agreement for pooling of data and the challenge to harmonize data and their validity across individual studies. Since non-communicable diseases, especially cardiometabolic disorders and cancers are the main cause of death and DALY in Iran, results from cohort studies could play a significant role in their control.

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