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NICHD to Fund Omics Studies Targeting Pregnancy Outcomes

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development will fund research efforts that apply some of the recent advances in high-throughput omics technologies and methods to address pregnancy and neonatal health issues and improve outcomes.

NICHD said today it aims to support projects that will use genomics, proteomics, epigenomics, and metabolomics, coupled with bioinformatics tools, to target the molecular mechanisms involved in and biomarkers for predicting adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as preterm birth, preeclampsia, stillbirth, and fetal growth restriction.

There has been an explosion of omics technologies over the past decade, and now "there is an urgent need to accelerate the use of these technologies to hasten the pace of discovery to understand the molecular mechanisms of poor pregnancy and infant outcomes," NICHD said.

The researchers will use existing cohorts that are large enough to provide meaningful results in studies to discover novel target molecules and diagnostic biomarkers, and ultimately new interventions for managing or preventing adverse pregnancy outcomes.

Ideally, the scientists will use cohorts of pregnant women and newborn infants with "excellent" phenotype data; many such cohort studies exist but have been under-utilized, NICHD said.

NICHD is strongly encouraging investigators to use omics approaches in a biomarker discovery phase in one cohort and then follow up with a validation study in an alternate cohort. It also encourages researchers to employ systems biology approaches to integrate multiple omics analyses from the genome, transcriptome, proteome, and the metabolome.

These studies may include, but are not limited to, efforts to develop biomarkers for predicting short- and long-term outcomes of major neonatal conditions and sudden infant death syndrome, and studies of the biological processes that determine a healthy pregnancy and infant that would be helpful in understanding adverse outcomes.

NICHD has not set a funding total that it will invest in the program, or set limits on the amount of funding applicants may seek.