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NIH Awards $280M to Nine Centers in Second Phase of Molecular Probe Network Initiative

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Institutes of Health will pump approximately $280 million over the next four years into a small molecule screening program involving nine institutions that is aimed at advancing the uses for chemical probes in research and medicine, NIH said today.
Coordinated along with the National Human Genome Research Institute and the National Institute of Mental Health, the Molecular Libraries Probe Production Centers Network (MLPPCN) initiative is the second phase of the Molecular Libraries and Imaging Initiative, which was begun in 2004 under the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research program.
"This network marks a new era in academic and government research as NIH-funded scientists will have access to the tools for rapidly screening hundreds of thousands of small molecules against many novel biological assays at lower costs than previously possible," NIH Director Elias Zerhouni said in a statement.
He also said the research could yield “novel approaches to therapies and prevention, especially for rare or neglected diseases.”
NIH stated that it wants to focus on small-molecule probes because they can be targeted to “interact with one site of a cell’s chemical machinery, thus providing information on a specific step in a cascade of cell functions.”
"This collaborative effort will give academic and government researchers in the global research community robust chemical tools to understand the cellular mechanisms of disease and a much more vigorous way to identify useful biological targets," NHGRI Acting Director Alan E. Guttmacher said in a statement.
The MLPPCN will screen a library of over 300,000 small molecules that are maintained in the Molecular Small Molecule Repository, which is located at the drug research company Biofocus DPI’s San Francisco headquarters.
The data the network generates will be made available through the National Library of Medicine’s PubChem database.
The nine centers receiving funding under the program include: $100 million to the Burnham Center for Chemical Genomics, La Jolla, Calif.; $86 million to the Broad Institute Comprehensive Screening Center, Cambridge, Mass.; $51 million to the National Institutes of Health Chemical Genomics Center, Bethesda, Md.; $88 million to the Comprehensive Center for Chemical Probe Discovery and Optimization at Scripps, La Jolla, Calif.; $16.2 million to the Johns Hopkins Ion Channel Center, Baltimore; $14.7 million to the Southern Research Specialized Biocontainment Screening Center, Birmingham, Ala.; $15.6 million to the University of New Mexico Center for Molecular Discovery, Albuquerque, N.M.; $20.2 million to the University of Kansas Specialized Chemistry Center, Lawrence, Kan.; and $17.4 million to the Vanderbilt Specialized Chemistry Center for Accelerated Probe Development, Nashville, Tenn.
NIH did not announce the amount of funding it will grant to each center, but the Burnham Institute said in a statement that it has been awarded a total of $97.9 million over the coming four years.  Burnham has been involved in the pilot phase of the ML for three years.