The National Institutes of Health (NIH) this spring will begin developing plans to establish a "biobank" of DNA and health information with data from roughly 500,000 U.S. residents collected through a series of town hall meetings, interviews with community leaders and a national survey of 4,000 residents, the San Jose Mercury News reports. Scientists currently collect DNA from families with histories of certain diseases to help identify patterns, as well as from large health care providers such as Kaiser Permanente, which collect DNA and health information from patients. The biobank, however, would "offer a far richer treasure trove of data" than such efforts because of the "vast and diverse population" in the U.S. and could "help reveal now-hidden links between genes, lifestyles and the environment," according to the Mercury News. The director of the National Human Genome Research Institute adds that the biobank would help scientists determine the medical significance of differences in human DNA. Commenting on the plan, some scientists suggest that the biobank is a "long shot" because of the cost, which they estimate at "billions of dollars," and because of the current lack of protection against genetic discrimination, the Mercury News reports (Krieger, San Jose Mercury News, 3/11).