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NIH, NSF, DOE to Back Biodiversity Studies for Health, Energy

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the US Department of Energy will use $2.5 million in 2009 to support interdisciplinary biodiversity research partnerships that will include genomic and metagenomic microbe studies.
The three agencies will fund between two and three competitive grants for up to five years with a total of around $600,000 per year to form the International Cooperative Biodiversity Groups program. These groups will be tasked with exploring the interdependence of biodiversity, with an eye on how that diversity may be harnessed for applications in health or energy, according to an NIH request for applications.
On the energy side of the programs, DNA sequencing of isolated microbial communities will be a “significant component” of the research, and resources for the sequencing will be provided through DOE’s Joint Genome Institute, NIH said.
The funding agencies are particularly interested in studies of novel microorganisms that could help to degrade cellulosic materials, assimilate carbon dioxide, or generate new biofuels. The agencies also are interested in microorganisms from environments with high carbon turnover or the capabilities to degrade cellulose, hemicellulose, or lignins from tropical forest soils or from sea floors.
These groups also could support research and training on HIV/AIDS, parasitic diseases, cardiovascular diseases, mental disorders, obesity, and diabetes. Any therapeutic research would be focused mainly on finding and developing bioactive small molecules and peptides, but could include ethno-medical botanicals and botanical drugs that are significant to public health.
Proposed bioassays and development strategies should include “state of the art molecular, genetic, and biochemical approaches,” NIH said, and investigators are encouraged to use diverse biological screens to provide information about mammalian and microbial cells.
More information about the program may be found here.

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