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NIH Offers $5.5M Next Year for Studies, Center Focused on Expanding 'Druggable Genome'

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Institutes of Health plans to spend up to $5.5 million in the next fiscal year to fund research and a center to develop technologies to characterize the function of proteins, with the aim of expanding the number of known proteins in the human genome that may bind to drug-like molecules.

The grants are part of the NIH's Illuminating the Druggable Genome (IDG) program, an effort to develop tools to explore the 30,000 genes in the human genome that express proteins able to bind to drug molecules, an estimated 6,000 of which may be druggable, NIH said in a funding announcement today. Many proteins have not been well studied and remain poorly characterized and annotated, NIH said, and the research projects and center funded by these grants will seek to create tools that can shed light on those so-called "dark matter" regions of the human genome and proteome.

In FY 2014, the NIH Common Fund will provide up to $2.5 million to fund between five and seven research projects and $3 million to fund one knowledge management center that will house three cores for data organization, a user interface portal, and administration.

NIH wants researchers to use these funds to develop technologies to characterize the functions of four well-studied protein families, including GPCRs, ion channels, nuclear receptors, and protein kinases.

The core goal is to create scalable new tools for characterizing the functions of proteins in large groups, in medium-to-high-throughput formats, as opposed to using a "one at a time" approach, NIH said.

The long-term goals of the IDG project are to increase knowledge about subsets of genes and proteins for which there is currently little available information; to identify proteins that could be studied as candidate targets for therapeutic discovery programs; and to demonstrate the feasibility and benefits of illuminating the role or poorly understood proteins.

Research projects funded under these grants will pursue the first of those long-term goals.

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