The NHGRI reports that over the next four years it will issue up to $31 million in grants for research on how specific genetic variants influence the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other common diseases.
Studies will evaluate how genetic variants identified through genome-wide association studies (GWAS) are related to a person's biological and physical characteristics such as weight, cholesterol levels, blood sugar level, or bone density. Scientists will also examine how nongenetic factors such as diet, medications, and smoking may interact with genetic factors or each other to influence health outcomes.
Dana Crawford, Ph.D., Vanderbilt University received $7 million, Gerardo Heiss, M.D., Ph.D., University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill also obtained $7 million, Loîc Le Marchand, M.D., Ph.D., University of Hawaii Cancer Research Center got $6.7 million, and Charles L. Kooperberg, Ph.D., Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center received $7.6 million.
A coordinating center will also be established to facilitate data access and analysis tools for the research community. The principal investigator of the coordinating center is Tara Matise, Ph.D., University of Rutgers Busch campus. The center will receive approximately $3.1 million. The coordinating center is being cofunded by the National Institute of Mental Health, which will contribute approximately $1.2 million over four years.
“These investigators and cohorts were each chosen for their potential to provide important clues about how specific genetic variants might contribute to diseases like diabetes or cancer,” reports Teri Manolio, M.D., Ph.D., director of the NHGRI office of population genomics. “The investigators will collaborate to establish criteria and prioritize specific variants to test within their populations. Our plan is to investigate about 100 genetic variants in 10,000 participants each year for four years.”
“By drawing on the combined strengths of genomics and epidemiology, this innovative program will create a much-needed research resource,” notes NHGRI director, Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. Additionally, it will lay the groundwork for laboratory experiments in cultured cells and other model systems to identify the precise biological mechanism affected by each genetic variant and how it interacts with other biological and environmental factors.