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NIGMS Considering Renewal Grants as It Evaluates Systems Biology Centers Program

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The National Institute of General Medical Sciences will provide up to $2 million per year to renew funding for each of the National Centers for Systems Biology, pending approval of renewal applications, the institute said in an announcement Monday.

NIGMS currently funds 12 systems biology centers at universities and institutions across the US that use a wide range of molecular, cellular, biochemical, behavioral, and other approaches to study complex biological phenomena.

The systems biology centers program is currently under evaluation, NIGMS said, so it is not offering awards to fund new centers, but it will consider funding renewal grants to established centers for up to five years.

Systems biology as a field is developing as a science that integrates experimentation, computation, and information, and it has benefited from recent advances in high-throughput omics, microfluidics, and imaging technologies, the institute noted.

"However, there continue to be significant conceptual, technological, and cultural challenges in systems biology research. It is the purpose of this initiative to promote innovative responses to these challenges," NIGMS said.

Currently funded systems biology centers include the Center for Genome Dynamics at The Jackson Laboratory; the MIT Center for Integrated Synthetic Biology; the Stanford Center for Systems Biology; the San Diego Center for Systems Biology; the Center for Systems Biology at the Institute for Systems Biology; and seven others involved in an array of research areas.

The centers use systems biology approaches in areas that are critical to NIGMS's mission, but not disease-focused projects that would fall under another National Institutes of Health component. For example, NIGMS said these might include studies of genetic variation and how it contributes to complex phenotypes in evolutionary and environmental contexts; research into fundamental mechanisms of cellular processes, such as differentiation and apoptosis; examining pattern formation and other developmental processes in models such as Drosophila and C. Elegans; and designing and building synthetic biological systems for better understanding the organizational principles of biological networks.

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