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NIH Outlines Stimulus Challenge Grants for Genomics

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Some of the $200 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding that has been marked for the National Institutes of Health's Challenge Grants program will go for research areas that generally come under the National Human Genome Research Institute's domain.

The NIH program, which will give up to $1 million for each grant, is focused on areas where there are specific knowledge gaps, scientific opportunities, new technologies, a need for data, or research methods that would benefit from an influx of funds.

Included in the 15 NIH challenge areas are requests for advances in genomics and for the development of new enabling technologies.

In the NIH genomics challenge area, NIH is seeking new technologies and resources for high-throughput analysis of functional elements in genomic sequences. There is a need for new high-throughput methods for carrying out functional assays for studying how certain functional genomic elements operate to determine cell states, in development, and in health and disease.

NIH also wants scientists to propose development of a number of new enabling technologies in genomics and personalized medicine.

One grant will fund development of new computational and statistical methods for analyzing the large data sets that come from next-generation sequencing technologies.

NIH also will fund new technologies to manage data from large-scale sequencing, metagenomics, transcriptomics, and genetic network analysis that overwhelms existing computational resources. "Urgent action is needed to enable the translation of this rich new source of genomic information into medical benefit," NIH stated in the funding announcement.

Another grant seeks technologies that can be used to obtain genomic, proteomic, and metabolomic data from individual viable cells in complex tissues. NIH wants tools that can use one or a small number of cells to generate data to understand the molecular phenotype, or state, of a particular cell type and how it functions in both health and disease.

NIH also plans to fund research to develop methods to sequence highly variable, repeat-rich regions of complex genomes. Some variants in complex genomic regions have implications for infectious and autoimmune diseases, so NIH seeks technologies to sequence and assemble these regions.

In addition, NIH intends to fund development of new personalized medicine technologies and resources, including rapid point-of-care genotyping methods and ways to use genetic testing results in conjunction with electronic medical records. NIH also wants research on the effects that using personalized medicine has on health costs and outcomes so that such methods may be integrated into current health care systems.

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