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NIH to Fund High-Throughput Screening Projects to Discover New Chemical Probes

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The National Institutes of Health plans to fund scientists who will collaborate with established high-throughput screening facilities to discover and develop novel small molecule chemical probes.

Supported by several NIH institutes, the grants will fund efforts to identify and develop novel small molecules that could be useful in studying the disease areas they focus on, and discovering or validating novel biological targets for studying the mechanisms of those diseases.

To fund the studies, NIH plans to award R01 research project grants, for which it has not set a hard budget limit, and to fund R21 exploratory and developmental studies with up to $275,000 over two years.

These projects will be expected to develop new insights into important disease targets and processes, such as studying emerging therapeutic targets and mechanisms for discovering chemical probes that could lead to new therapeutics, NIH said.

The partnering organizations may be academic, non-profit, or commercial high-throughput screening facilities. These facilities should be able to optimize and automate biochemical, cellular, or whole-organism-based assays to screen a library of compounds. The research projects will be expected to have an implementable HTS assay and a collection of compounds for screening, although the investigators and screening facilities may engage in some assay adaptation to optimize them.

The assays may include biochemical or cell-based assays; whole animal, organoid, or 3-D culture assays; cell or tissue sample assays for a focused collection of compounds; or an affinity-based assay of multiple protein targets against a very large compound library.

When the high-throughput screening is finished, some compound samples will be chosen for further confirmation, and secondary assays will be used to remove false positives and to verify that the compounds are acting on the targets or pathways of interest, NIH said.

NIH said 11 of its institutes will support the program, and that each is interested in identifying disease areas most relevant to its mission.

For example, the National Institute of Mental Health is interested in applications for clinically-relevant targets that could treat mental disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism, and a range of others. The National Cancer Institute wants to support high-throughput screens to identify small molecules for studying cancer biology or for developing new cancer treatments or diagnostics.