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NIAMS to Fund Small Business Grants for Multiplex Assay Projects

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases aims to fund small businesses developing new multiplex diagnostic technologies that target biomarkers for a range of diseases.

NIAMS plans to provide Small Business Innovation Research grants of $150,000 for phase I projects and $1 million for phase II efforts to businesses developing multiplex tools for measuring multiple protein, DNA, or RNA-based biomarkers that can be detected in small volumes of fluid or biopsies.

Many of the diseases in the NIAMS portfolio, such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, and others, are chronic, complex, and progress very slowly. The slow development of these disorders may offer many circulating biomarkers that could be used in early diagnosis, but the biological resources to evaluate those markers are in short supply, according to NIAMS.

Single marker assays have been used for a variety of diseases but they offer limited benefits, and few have become useful for routine clinical practice, NIAMS stated in a request for applications this week.

The institute sees multiplex arrays that measure multiple protein and genetic biomarkers as more useful for screening for disease, assessing disease risk, severity, and prognosis, and potentially saving time, cost, and sample consumption. Many disorders may require a panel of biomarkers to characterize the stage or nature of a disease, so NIAMS sees a need for high-throughput multiplex assays that can produce accurate quantitative data.

Today, few assays for multiple biomarkers are available in the multiplex format and allow high throughput of a large number of specimens that are required for proof-of-concept studies, and most of those lack sensitivity and reproducibility and have high variability, the institute said.

NIAMS said this program will fund development of multiplex assay platforms that rise above those limitations, can quantify multiple biomarker candidates in small quantities of biospecimens, and can incorporate new candidate biomarkers as they become available.