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NIH to Grant $350M for 2009 High-Risk Research Grant Winners

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Institutes of Health today said it is awarding $348 million for bold research, visionary scientists, and aggressive young researchers through the 2009 NIH Director's High-Risk Research Awards program, including a number of grants that will fund a wide range of proteomics, genomics, and other studies.

NIH expects these awards in 2009 will include $30 million to fund 42 Director's Transformative (T – R01) awards, $13.5 million to 18 Pioneer Award winners, and roughly $131 million for 55 New Innovator awards for early stage investigators, NIH said. The full $348 million is an estimate of how much NIH will grant to these awardees over the next five years.

"The appeal of the Pioneer, New Innovator, and now the T-R01 programs, is that investigators are encouraged to challenge the status quo with innovative ideas, while being given the necessary resources to test them," NIH Director Francis Collins said in a statement. "The fact that we continue to receive such strong proposals for funding through the programs reflects the wealth of creative ideas in science today."

The funding for the New Innovator grants for 2009 includes $23 million in funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The Transformative, New Innovator, and Pioneer awards will support a wide array of proteomics and genomics research efforts, such as:

• Susan Rosenberg at Baylor College of Medicine will use a Pioneer Award to develop methods for studying how DNA in living cells becomes damaged, leading to genomic instability and cancer.

• Julio Camarero, at the University of Southern California School of Pharmacy, will use a T-R01 award to study a new approach for screening protein capture reagents to enable rapid production of cyclotide-based microarrays for proteomics studies.

• Michael Czech of the University of Massachusetts Medical School will use funding from a T-R01 grant to develop a method of oral RNAi delivery to macrophages in living animals and using gene silencing for potentially treating diabetes, atherosclosis, arthritis, and other diseases.

• Joshua Dubnau at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory will use a T-R01 grant to study genomes of Drosophila in order to understand protein synthesis for genes that may be linked to a defect that could be responsible for Fragile X syndrome.

• Gábor Balázsi at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center will use a New Innovator's award to study how certain noisy gene expression deviants connect to genetic evolution.

• Shohei Koide at the University of Chicago will use a T-RO1 award to fund studies of directed protein-capture reagents that will establish a new approach to reagent detection.

• Sanford Markowitz at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine will use a T-R01 grant for studies aimed at identifying inborn genetic susceptibility to develop cancer metastasis.

• Stanford University's Chang-Zheng Chen will use a Pioneer Award to research mechanisms regulating microRNA gene function in vertebrate immune systems.

• Nikos Chronis of the University of Michigan will use a New Innovator award to develop a biochip for a point-of-care HIV/AIDS diagnostic for use in the developing world.

"Since no budget cap is imposed and preliminary results are not required, scientists are free to propose new, bold ideas that may require significant resources to pursue," the NIH said in its statement announcing the awards. "They are also given the flexibility to work in large, complex teams if the complexity of the research problem demands it."

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