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NIAID to Support Pathogen Genomics Programs

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases aims to provide $7.1 million next year to fund research programs that will enhance current knowledge of certain biochemical functions of genes in dangerous pathogens.

The new NIAID grant program will fund three to five awards supporting research programs that focus on determining the biochemical functions of hypothetical genes, unknown open reading frame genes, or ORFs, and the function of non-coding RNAs in pathogens.

For the purposes of this research, NIAID wants researchers to focus on pathogens it has listed as Category A through Category C.

Category A pathogens, the most dangerous and high priority microbes identified by NIAID, cause anthrax, yersinia pestis, tularemia, lassa fever, and the Dengue, Ebola, and Marburg viruses, among others.

Hypothetical genes are genes that are predicted to encode a protein but for which there is no experimental evidence that it is expressed in the pathogen. ORFs are genes that are predicted to encode a protein, and for which there is experimental evidence that it is expressed at the transcriptional or protein level in a pathogen, but the biochemical function of that protein is unknown. Non-coding RNAs are from genes that are predicted to encode RNAs that do not appear to contain an open reading frame.

Applicants for these grants are expected to plan to study at least 10 genes in each of these categories and may focus on one or more of NIAID's priority pathogens.

Each of these programs will be expected to launch and maintain a technology core that will generate measurements for characterizing hypothetical genes, unknown ORFs, and non-coding RNAs, and a data management and resource dissemination core that will manage and integrate the vast amounts of data these projects will be creating.

NIAID's Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases supports an extramural research program on the prevention and control of virtually all infectious agents, and it has made a significant investment in microbial genomics-related activities such as genome sequencing, transcriptomics, proteomics, and bioinformatics.

Such programs include the Genome Sequencing Centers for Infectious Diseases; Bioinformatics Resource Centers; Clinical Proteomics Centers for Infectious Diseases and Biodefense; Systems Biology Centers for Infectious Diseases, and Structural Genomics Centers for Infectious Diseases.

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