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NHGRI Awards Four Groups $31M to Study Role of Genetic Variation in Human Disease

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) - The National Human Genome Research Institute said today that it plans to award around $31 million over the next four years to four research projects that will explore the link between human disease and genetic variants that have been identified in genome-wide association studies.
NHGRI said in a statement that the rise of GWAS research over the last several years has unearthed more than 300 novel genetic variants associated with common diseases, but these discoveries are only “the first step in the challenging process of piecing together the complex biological picture of common diseases.”
The new program will support new research in existing large epidemiology studies with the goal of linking genetic variants to biological and physical characteristics, such as weight, cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, or bone density. In addition, researchers funded under the program will investigate how non-genetic factors, such as diet, medications, and smoking, might interact with genetic factors to influence health outcomes, NHGRI said.
"By drawing on the combined strengths of genomics and epidemiology, this innovative program will create a much-needed research resource,” NHGRI Director Francis Collins said in a statement. ”The data it generates will save researchers around the world considerable time and energy, accelerating our ongoing efforts to translate genetic findings into new strategies for improving human health."
Data from the studies will be released through the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s dbGaP database.
Teri Manolio, director of the NHGRI Office of Population Genomics, said that the investigators funded under the program will “collaborate to establish criteria and prioritize specific variants to test within their populations.”
She said that NHGRI’s goal is to investigate about 100 genetic variants in 10,000 participants each year for four years.
The grantees, along with their estimated funding levels over four years and the cohorts involved, are:  
  • Dana Crawford of Vanderbilt University, who will receive $7 million for the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey;
  • Gerardo Heiss of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, who will receive $7 million for the CALiCo Consortium, which involves the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study, the Coronary Artery Risk in Young Adults study, the Cardiovascular Heart Study, the Hispanic Community Health Study, the Strong Heart Cohort Study, and the Strong Heart Family Study;
  • Loîc Le Marchand of the University of Hawaii Cancer Research Center, who will receive $6.7 million for the Multiethnic Cohort;
  • Charles Kooperberg of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, who will receive $7.6 million for the Women's Health Initiative. 
NHGRI will also fund a data-coordination center for the project, which will be led by Tara Matise of Rutgers University. The center will receive around $3.1 million over four years.
The data-coordinating center will be co-funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, which will contribute approximately $1.2 million over four years.

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