Kaiser Permanente and UC San Francisco have provided genetic data on 78,000 individuals — including 55 billion bits of discrete genetic data — to researchers worldwide through a National Institutes of Health database.

The data is available through the NIH’s database of Genotypes and Phenotypes to qualified researchers. It came from a joint project called the Genetic Epidemiology Research on Adult Health and Aging cohort or GERA.

Adding the new data to the NIH database was funded in part by $24.9 million from the National Institute on Aging, the National Institute of Mental Health and the Office of the NIH Director, Kaiser and UCSF said Wednesday.

Data from such a large and ethnically diverse population “offers the opportunity to identify potential genetic risks and influences on a broad range of health conditions, particularly those related to aging,” said Francis Collins, the federal agency’s director.

Individuals in the GERA cohort are part of a broader database of more than 430,000 adult members of the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan in Northern California who voluntarily submitted information to Kaiser’s Research Program on Genes, Environment and Health. About 200,000 of those volunteers also supplied blood or saliva samples for use in genomic research and analysis.

In addition to the federal funding, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation provided Kaiser with an $8.6 million grant to help fund its genomics program.

Additional funding came from the Wayne and Gladys Valley Foundation, the Ellison Medical Foundation, and Kaiser itself.

Researchers conducted genone-wide genotyping at the UCSF Institute for Human Genetics using an Affeymetrix system to quickly scan genetic markers called single nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs in the genomes of the 74,000 volunteer Kaiser enrollees. Kaiser then combined that genetic data with historical data, including electronic medical records, health habit surveys and other information, giving researchers a potential treasure trove of genetic and patient-specific health information.

The combination “will greatly accelerate research,” said Catherine Schaefer, who heads Kaiser’s broader genomics program and is co-principal investigator on the joint project with UCSF, along with Neil Risch, who heads the university’s human genetics institute.

This article was originally published in The San Francisco Business Times on Feb. 26, 2014.