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Everyone working from home this year has figured out their own ways to stay focused. For Chris Lunt, it’s a squat red sphere he keeps on his desk, painted to depict the furrowed brow of Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen Buddhism — a Daruma doll.

“It’s a doll you buy when you take on a difficult task,” explained Lunt, chief technology officer for the United States’ All of Us research program. The hollow figurine comes painted with two white, unblinking eyes: one to be filled in when the challenge begins, and the other once it has been completed.


“I’ve had this now for four years,” said Lunt, holding up his one-eyed Daruma to the camera in a recent video call. That’s when All of Us, a $1.5 billion federal initiative to collect health data from 1 million Americans of diverse backgrounds, got underway. It’s been heralded as an ambitious bet to broaden the reach of precision medicine. But the technology being developed in lockstep with All of Us also stands to democratize research.

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