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NIH Grants $62M for Epigenomics Roadmap Program

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Institutes of Health will pump $62 million into more than twenty studies focused on using epigenomics to understand how environmental factors, aging, diet, and stress influence human disease.

Funded over five years under the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research's Epigenomics Program, scientists will use these funds to study the epigenome in a wide range of diseases and conditions, including tumor development, autism, hardening of the arteries, glaucoma, aging, asthma, and abnormal growth and development.

"Epigenomics represents the next phase in our understanding of genetic regulation of health and disease," NIH Director Francis Collins said in a statement. "These awards will address the extent to which diet and environmental exposures produce long lasting effects through changes in DNA regulation."

James Battey, director of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, called the initiative "the largest effort to date to apply epigenetics on a genome-wide scale to specific diseases."

Launched in 2007, the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research's Epigenomics Program has already started other initiatives including the establishment of four epigenome mapping centers, funding for an epigenomics data analysis and coordination center, the development of epigenetic technologies, and the discovery of new epigenetic changes.

"The new grantees being announced will join a larger collaborative research effort that is working together to understand epigenetics and how it affects human health and disease," National Institute on Drug Abuse Director Nora Volkow said.

The 22 programs and investigators funded under the program include:

• David Bennet of Rush University Medical Center will study the brain epigenome, specifically cognitive decline and life experiences;
• Paul Coleman of Sun Health Research Institute will study DNA methylation in Alzheimer's disease and the normally aged brain;
• Jessica Connelly of the University of Virginia will research epigenomics and atherosclerosis;
• Francine Hughes Einstein of Yeshiva University will study genome-wide DNA methylation profiles associated with abnormal intrauterine growth;
• Margaret Fallin of Johns Hopkins University will research how the environment can affect the perinatal genome and risk factors for autism and related disorders;
• Gary Gibbons of Morehouse School of Medicine will conduct studies of vascular epigenome dynamics in African-American hypertensives;
• Tim Huang of Ohio State University will research epigenomics of bisphenol A exposure and disease risk;
• Terumi Kohwi-Shigematsu of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, will research determinants for genome-wide epigenomics in metastatic breast cancer;
• Yongmei Liu of Wake Forest University Health Sciences will conduct an epigenome-wide association study of DNA methylation and atherosclerosis;
• Stephen Meltzer at Johns Hopkins University will study the temporal epigenomics of Barrett's Neoplastic Progression.
• Shannath Merbs of Johns Hopkins University will conduct a pangenomic analysis of DNA methylation marks in glaucoma and macular degeneration;
• Jonathan Mill of King's College, London, will study a multi-faceted approach to epigenomic profiling in Alzheimer's Disease.
• Roel Ophoff at the University of California, Los Angeles, will study DNA methylation in schizophrenia;
• Art Petronis at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, will research DNA methylome analysis in bipolar disorder;
• Gerd Pfiefer at City of Hope, Beckman Research Institute will study aging and epigenome stability;
• Evan Rosen of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, will research the epigenomics of human insulin resistance;
• David Schwartz at National Jewish Health, Denver, will research epigenetics involved in asthma;
• Kathleen Sullivan of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, will study the epigenomics of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.
• Katalin Susztak at Yeshiva University will research the epigenetics involved in chronic kidney disease;
• Benjamin Tycko and Richard Mayeux of Columbia University will research the epigenomics of Alzheimer's disease;
• Kyoko Yokomori of the University of California, Irvine, will study epigenomics to analyze facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy;
• Richard Young at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research will conduct epigenomics mapping in human tumor cells.

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