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NHGRI Sets Aside $27.5M for Population-Based GWA Studies for 'Complex Diseases'

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — The National Human Genome Research Institute plans to hand out a total of $27.5 million in grants for large-scale genome-wide association studies aimed at identifying genetic variants that relate to undisclosed ”complex diseases.”
The allocation will support between three and five studies over four years that aim to create population-based data to speed the process of understanding how certain genes are related to certain complex diseases.
According to an NHGRI RFA, the research will use information from population-based cohort studies or clinical trials with “detailed existing information on demographics, health characteristics, environmental exposures, and disease risk factors and traits.” 
The NHGRI said it expects the studies to attempt to “determine the population-based profile, or ‘epidemiologic architecture,’” of variants such as those in racial and ethnic subgroups in the US.
The studies also would identify modifiers of gene-trait associations, such as lifestyle or medicinal factors, and would identify clues that link causal variants to phenotypes.
The RFA would support assaying selected SNPs and other genetic variants with “strong evidence” for a possible causal association with a disease or trait; statistical analysis of the prevalence and associations of these variants on a population basis; provision of calculated descriptive and association data in readily interpretable form to a central database; cataloguing and disseminating the characteristics of participating population studies to be used for such investigations; and inviting collaborations with outside investigators for further functional or translational research. 
It would also provide “limited funding” for whole-genome amplification of “scarce, high priority” DNA samples, such as those from rare or severe disease cases or persons with extreme phenotypes; for researchers to isolate DNA from “uniquely valuable” stored samples; and for those who transform cryopreserved cells in “highest priority participants.”
The RFA said that the NHGRI looks to the “power and potential of large-scale GWA studies” to find genetic variants related to disease and stressed that this potential has been “amply demonstrated” with recent “successes” in macular degeneration, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, prostate cancer, breast cancer, and coronary disease.
Letters of intent for the grants are due on Oct. 19, and applications must be received by Nov. 19.
Additional information can be found here.

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