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New NIH Roadmap Promotes Systems Biology, Multidisciplinary Research

NEW YORK, Sept. 30 (GenomeWeb News) - Elias Zerhouni, director of the National Institutes of Health, today identified systems biology and multidisciplinary research as key components in a new set of agency initiatives dubbed the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research.

The roadmap was created to highlight "major opportunities and gaps in biomedical research that no single institute at NIH could tackle alone, but that the agency still needed to address," according to an NIH statement.

Developed with input from more than 300 biomedical experts in academia, industry, government, and the public, the roadmap "builds on the tremendous progress in medical research achieved, in part, through the recent doubling of the NIH budget," NIH said.

The roadmap includes 28 initiatives that will be carried out by nine implementation groups arranged under three main themes: New Pathways to Discovery, Research Teams of the Future, and Re-engineering the Clinical Research Enterprise.

The implementation groups under the theme of New Pathways to Discovery are Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, Structural Biology, Building Blocks and Pathways, Molecular Libraries and Molecular Imaging, and Nanomedicine. NIH said that resources developed under this area would include an improved computational infrastructure for biomedical research, libraries of chemical molecules, new molecular and cellular imaging tools, and nano-scale technology devices for viewing and interacting with basic life processes.

Under Research Teams of the Future, three implementation groups -- High-Risk Research, Interdisciplinary Research, and Public-Private Partnerships -- will work to "stimulate new ways of combining skills and disciplines in both the physical and biological sciences."

Seven implementation groups under the theme of Re-engineering Clinical Research will promote the creation of integrated networks of academic centers that work jointly on clinical trials -- a departure from the current system, in which all research for a clinical trial is conducted in one academic center. "Implementing this vision will require new ways to organize the way clinical research information is recorded, new standards for clinical research protocols, modern information technology, new models of cooperation between NIH and patient advocacy alliances, and new strategies to re-energize the clinical research workforce," according to an NIH statement.

NIH said it would begin to implement these initiatives in fiscal year 2004. Funding opportunities in four main areas -- Metabolomics Technology Development, Exploratory Centers for Interdisciplinary Research, National Technology Centers for Networks and Pathways, and National Centers for Biomedical Computing -- are available here.

"Through these new initiatives, we hope to remove some of the biggest roadblocks that are keeping research findings from reaching the public as swiftly as possible," Zerhouni said in a statement.

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