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NIA to Spend $23M on Studies Seeking Alzheimer's Targets

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Institute on Aging plans to award up to $23 million in 2013 to fund efforts using systems biology, 'omics, and other interdisciplinary approaches to identify and validate novel therapeutic targets in molecular networks that are involved in Alzheimer's disease.

Developed as a response to recommendations from the Alzheimer's Disease Research Summit, which was created under the National Alzheimer's Project Act of 2011, this grant program seeks to spur efforts that will lead to new pharmacological targets for treating AD.

These projects will use systems biology and systems pharmacology approaches to understand how therapeutic targets operate within molecular and physiological systems and to identify and validate such targets. The research is expected to demonstrate how particular targets are involved in disease and to show the "druggability" of these targets — whether they can be modulated with small molecule or chemical probes or biologics, NIA said in its request for applications late last week.

These studies should aim to gain a systems-level understanding of the gene, protein, and metabolic networks that these targets operate within. NIA also is encouraging researchers to identify pharmacodynamic response biomarkers as part of the early validation process.

The tools and technologies researchers will use in these projects will include conditional knock-out/knock in transgenics, siRNA screens, chemical biology screens, among others.

The researchers also will be expected to integrate clinical samples and clinical data, including genomic, epigenomic, proteomic, metabolomic, expression profiling, and imaging data.

NIA said it is particularly interested in supporting studies focused on the discovery and preclinical validation of novel targets associated with molecular processes that lead to declines in cognitive function, mechanisms involved in metabolic and vascular factors, and other mechanisms that elevate AD risk and neuropsychiatric symptoms in AD.

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