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NIDA to Fund Studies of Genes, Variants Involved in Addiction

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Institute on Drug Abuse plans to fund research and development projects investigating the genomic characteristics and molecular pathways that may play roles in addiction.

NIDA said yesterday it plans to provide $275,000 per year for exploratory, developmental research project grants, and unlimited budgets for research project grants that delve into these genomic underpinnings of addictive processes.

Genomics research projects in recent years using genome-wide scans, gene expression profiling, proteomics, epigenomic analyses, and other methods have identified candidate genes and variants that may be involved in drug addiction, but the discovery of these genes/variants is "only a first step in understanding the molecular basis of addiction," NIDA said.

The institute now wants investigators to engage in functional validation studies to determine which candidate genes, genetic variants, and epigenetic and non-coding RNA features have an authentic role in addictive processes, and to elucidate which molecular pathways and processes are modulated by these candidate genes and variants.

A number of public and private resources may be helpful for researchers in these studies, such as the Roadmap Epigenomics Program, ENCODE datasets, eQTL data, and animal model resources such as the Knock Out Mouse Project.

Investigators who are proposing high-risk/high-payoff projects based on limited preliminary data are encouraged to apply for the exploratory/developmental R21 funding, while those pursuing discrete projects with substantial preliminary data are encouraged to submit research project R01 grant proposals.

These projects may use a wide range of approaches and methods, such as functional validation studies using human DNA samples from phenotypically well-characterized individuals to correlate a genetic variant with a particular phenotype; studies comparing wild type and gene variant function; approaches that ascribe a functional role to an epigenetic or genetic variant with respect to a particular aspect of addictive behavior; exploiting genetic models to examine in vivo genetic function; studies using genomic manipulation to discover or validate phenotypes; and epigenetics and epigenomics studies, among others.