NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – A new National Institutes of Health center will use genomics to study health disparities, particularly certain populations that are affected by common diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and hypertension, the NIH said today.
The new Intramural Center for Genomics and Health Disparities will be a trans-NIH initiative. While the NICGHD will be administered by the National Human Genome Research Institute, it will receive support from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the Center for Information Technology, and the Office of Intramural Research.
The NICGHD will “help move research related to the complex factors underlying health disparities in the 21st Century,” NIH Director Elias Zerhouni said in a statement today.
Zerhouni said that a genomics-based approach should help “advance our understanding of health disparities for the benefit of minority groups and all Americans."
"The priority of our center will be to understand how we can use the tools of genomics to address some of the issues we see with health disparities," said Charles Rotimi, who will direct the new center.
Rotimi, a genetic epidemiologist who formerly was director of the National Human Genome Center at Howard University, said the NIH’s research infrastructure “will make our research activities more robust and will allow us to tackle questions in ways that were not feasible in the past."
Situated on the NIH’s campus in Bethesda, Md., the center will collect and analyze genetic, clinical lifestyle, and socio-economic data to study the “subtle genomic differences” that contribute to disease susceptibility and drug response. It also will incorporate research into diet, exercise, and access to medical care.
The center will continue Rotimi’s research into how culture, lifestyle, genetics, and genomics affect health within certain populations. Rotimi also has been appointed senior investigator in the Inherited Disease Research Branch in the NHGRI’s Division of Intramural Research.
Rotimi’s work in the past has focused on complex diseases affecting Africans and those in the African diaspora. Research that relates to the NICGHD includes the African American Diabetes Mellitus study; the Howard University Family Study; the Genetics of Obesity in Blacks study; the Black Women Health Study; Consent in Genetic Research; and the Engagement of African Communities for the International HapMap Project.