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Jul 23, 2013

NIH Ushering Genome Sequencing Toward the Clinic with Grants Totaling $27M

  • The National Institutes of Health (NIH) today announced the recipients of four grants aimed at using genome sequencing in clinical care. Through an expansion of the National Human Genome Research Institute’s (NHGRI) Clinical Sequencing Exploratory Research (CSER) program, multidisciplinary research teams from the Kaiser Foundation Research Institute in Portland, OR, the Hudson-Alpha Institute for Biotechnology, Huntsville, AL, the University of Michigan, and the University of Washington will share in a total of approximately $27 million in funding over the course of up to four years.

    According to NIH, “the areas of research being pursued by these new projects include using genome sequencing to inform couples about reproductive risks, determining the genetic causes of childhood developmental delays and communicating findings to parents, and detecting genomic alterations that can lead to cancer.”

    More specifically, Kaiser Foundation Research Institute’s Katrina Goddard, Ph.D., et al., are slated to receive a total of $8.1 million to examine the use of whole-genome sequencing to inform couples of potential carrier status for genetic disease before they conceive a child. The researchers also aim to develop useful approaches for sharing genomic information with patients.

    Hudson-Alpha’s Richard Myers, Ph.D. and colleagues will be given $7.66 million to sequence the genomes of nearly 500 children with developmental delays and other disabilities, along with their parents, in an effort to identify causative gene alterations. Dr. Myers et al., also plan to examine how patients and their families are impacted by genomic testing.

    Arul Chinnaiyan, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues at the University of Michigan have won $7.97 million to sequence the genomes of tumors from 500 patients with advanced sarcoma or other rare cancers, with an eventual goal of personalizing patient therapies. Additionally, among other things, Dr. Chinnaiyan et al., plan to evaluate the genomic testing patient consent process.

    The University of Washington’s Gail Jarvik, M.D., Ph.D., Wylie Burke, M.D., Ph.D., Debbie Nickerson, Ph.D., and Peter Tarczy-Hornoch, M.D., are slated to receive $3 million to lead a coordinating center, which will be responsible for pulling together scientific teams, helping to organize studies, forming common goals, and assisting in results interpretation.

    “Since the first round of CSER program awards were announced in 2011, the use of clinical genome sequencing has seen tremendous growth,” Bradley Ozenberger, Ph.D., NHGRI CSER program director, said in a statement. “Genome sequencing has vast potential to uncover new targets for therapy. We’re continuing to learn how best to use genome sequence data to understand disease susceptibility and causation, and to advance treatment.”

    Added the institute’s Jean McEwen, J.D., Ph.D., program director for the Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications research program: “It’s not enough to understand the scientific issues related to the medical applications of genomics. Researchers must also examine how best to discuss genome sequencing results and their potential implications with doctors, patients, and caregivers.”


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