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NHGRI, NIAID Set Aside $30M in RFAs to Finish Human Microbiome DNA Sequences

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — The National Human Genome Research Institute and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases have set aside around $30.5 million in a request for applications for a project that aims to finish compiling a reference set of DNA sequences for the Human Microbiome Project, the National Institutes of Health said today.
The aim of the 4-year project is “to support continued generation of sequenced microbial genomes isolated from the human body … through metagenomic sequencing of the microbial flora at a set of designated anatomical sites of the human body,” according to the NIH.
The project, which is part of the NIH Roadmap and is open only to NHGRI and NIAID awardees of large-scale sequencing centers, is expected to fund five awards.
“The purpose of this limited competition RFA is to solicit applications for projects for continued large-scale, state-of-the-art production of genomic sequence to generate sequenced, assembled, and annotated microbial genomes isolated from the human body and to explore, through metagenomic sequencing of the microbial flora at a set of designated body sites, the complexity of the human microbiome,” the NIH said in its RFA.
The project plans to sequence the genomes of culturable and potentially uncultivatable bacteria, archaea, fungi, parasites, and viruses from anatomical sites such as the oral cavity, gastrointestinal and urogenital tracts, and skin.
The goal of the HMP is to “extensively characterize the human microbiome and create a technological and data research resource that will enable in-depth study of its variation … and its influence on health and disease,” the NIH said. 
Besides generating the reference set of genome sequences, the project also aims to perform “initial metagenomic studies that will generate an initial estimate of the complexity of the microbial community at each site, providing initial answers to the questions of whether there is a ‘core’ microbiome at each site and whether variation in the microbiome can be systematically studied; to “determine whether variation in the microbiome at a site can be related to human phenotypes, notably disease; to develop new technologies, informatics capabilities, and resources to help develop the field of metagenomics; and to analyze relevant potential ethical, legal, and social issues.
Letters of intent for this RFA are due April 22, 2008, and applications are due May 22. The RFA expires May 23.

The project is expected to start April 1, 2009.

Additional information can be found here.

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