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NIH to Fund SBIR Efforts to Develop Molecular Extraction Tech

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Institutes of Health plans to provide up to $2 million next year to fund small businesses that are working to develop new tools for extracting and analyzing molecular information from archived tissues.

The Small Business Innovation Research funding from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences will support projects that seek to develop technologies that expand the capability for molecular analyses of banked frozen or formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissues.

The grants also will support efforts to improve tissue fixatives and preservation methods that preserve high-quality DNA, RNA, protein, and small molecules in archived tissue from rodent and human studies.

The increase in number and variety of new omics technologies has brought about "significant opportunities for measuring transcriptional, epigenetic, proteomic, or metabolomic alterations" from samples collected during clinical, environmental health, and toxicology studies, NIH said in a funding announcement.

There are a number of such archives, some of which are paired with extensive pathology information and data about exposures, lifestyle, and phenotype.

But there are "technical limitations" that make it a "significant challenge" to find ways to measure molecular changes that correspond to pathology and phenotype-related endpoints, NIH said.

To make these datasets more useful for researchers, there needs to be improvements in methods to extract protein, DNA, RNA, and metabolites from FFPE tissues and frozen samples, as well as methods and reagents for maintaining high-quality DNA, RNA, protein, and small molecules during collection and storage, NIH said.

Small businesses may use the funding to conduct research to develop better methods for RNA extraction for transcriptomic analysis of FFPE tissues using next-generation sequencing or genome-wide deep sequencing approaches; for extracting or enriching methylated DNA or studying post-translational modifications of histones; new reagents and fixatives for preserving tissues and staining and histology that will stabilize nucleic acids, proteins, or protein complexes for molecular analysis; and a range of other, similar efforts.

NIEHS expects to fund eight SBIR projects next year.

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