Organizations will together receive $70 million annually for four years.

The NIH will provide roughly $280 million to a group of nine institutes to identify small molecules that can be used to investigate cell functions. The group, called Molecular Libraries Probe Production Centers Network, will receive approximately $70 million annually over the four-year production phase.

The network includes The Burnham Center for Chemical Genomics, Broad Institute Comprehensive Screening Center, National Institutes of Health Chemical Genomics Center, The Comprehensive Center for Chemical Probe Discovery and Optimization at The Scripps Research Institute, Johns Hopkins Ion Channel Center, Southern Research Specialized Biocontainment Screening Center, University of New Mexico Center for Molecular Discovery, University of Kansas Specialized Chemistry Center, and The Vanderbilt Specialized Chemistry Center for Accelerated Probe Development.

Using assays solicited by NIH from the research community, the network will screen a library of more than 300,000 small molecules maintained in the program’s Molecular Libraries Small Molecule Repository.

Small molecule probes can be minutely targeted to interact with one site of a cell’s chemical machinery, providing information about a specific step in a cascade of cell functions. Small molecules have potential for eventual therapeutic and research use. They may also help identify targets in the cell for the design of future therapies.

“Discoveries from genomics and proteomics have given us thousands of new proteins but little understanding of what many of them do in the cell,” says Thomas R. Insel, M.D., NIMH director. “This screening effort will identify small molecules that influence these newly discovered proteins, allowing us to understand how many of them function.”

This network is the second phase of a program that began in 2004 as part of the Molecular Libraries and Imaging Initiative. It will be coadministered by the NIMH and the NHGRI.

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