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NIH Offers $1.8M for GWA Studies Linking Environment and Disease

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — The National Human Genome Research Institute has allocated $1.8 million to fund between two and four projects to conduct genome-wide association and replication studies that explore environmental and genetic influences on human disease.
 
The two-year grants, which will be disbursed from fiscal 2008 funds, will be administered under the National Institutes of Health’s Genes, Environment, and Health Initiative, a program the NIH announced in November.
 
According to an NIH RFA, the studies will use data and specimens from human subjects about whom there is information concerning environmental exposures and “traits of public health importance.”
 
Specifically, the grants will support investigators planning to add genome-wide association studies to existing studies of diseases and traits of “substantial public health impact.”
 
Although the focus of the RFA is on initial genome-wide scanning and replication studies, follow-up genotyping studies “may be proposed,” according to the NIH.
 
Study designs may include case-control, population, cohort, clinical, or family studies or clinical trials, and investigators may seek to identify associations of genetic variants with the presence of a particular disease or discrete trait or with levels of a quantitative trait, and may examine interactions among genetic and environmental factors, susceptibility to multiple conditions, or associations of genes with disease risk factors, disease incidence, or therapeutic responsiveness.
 
The Genes, Environment, and Health Initiative is a four-year, NIH-wide program designed to “identify major genetic susceptibility factors for diseases of substantial public health impact and to develop technologies for reliable and reproducible measurement of potentially causative environmental exposures.”
 
It supports genome-wide association studies that are either in an initial discovery phase that are assaying SNPs seeking to capture 80 percent of human genome variation, or studies that are in replication phase [that are] testing subsets of the “most strongly associated SNPs or other genetic variants.”
 
The NIH said the initiative recognizes that “chronic diseases are likely due to environmental and behavioral factors interacting with genetic predisposition,” and includes “an environmental component” to develop environmental field-testing technologies to assess exposures to compounds.
 
Letters of intent for the funding are due Sept. 18, and applications are due Oct. 18. More information about the RFA can be found here.

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