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NIH Posts Call for $200M in Stimulus Grants

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Institutes of Health has put out a call for certain new grants it will fund with money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and it is outlining some areas it will support with the funds.

NIH has kicked off its stimulus package spending with a new Challenge Grants program, fuelled by at least $200 million in fiscal years 2009 and 2010, which is expected to fund 200 or more grants from applicants who get their proposals in before the end of April 2009.

These challenge grants will have special application and review processes aimed at creating a fast track for getting the labs going, outfitted, and staffed. These projects will include a variety of targeted areas, including genomics, biomarker studies, translational science, comparative effectiveness research, and bioethics studies of problems facing contemporary medical research and practices.

The program "will support research on topic areas that address specific scientific and health research challenges in biomedical and behavioral research that would benefit from significant 2-year jumpstart funds," the National Human Genome Research Institute said this week.

NHGRI also expects to receive directly some funds from the $10.4 billion in the stimulus bill that was marked for NIH, and that in the upcoming months it will provide more information about what it has received.

As GenomeWeb Daily News reported last week, NIH is expected to mark $800 million for the Office of the Director, $1 billion for the National Centers for Research Resources, $300 million to buy equipment and instruments; $500 million for facilities; and $7.2 billion for the institutes, centers, and the common fund.

Some of the stimulus cash will fund comparative effectiveness research and will be available for projects that are "a rigorous evaluation of the impact of different options that are available for treating a given medical condition for a particular set of patients," NIH said.

These programs will vary but could include development and use of clinical registries, clinical data networks, and other forms of electronic health data.

"Previous research has enormously increased our understanding of the molecular, cellular and behavioral bases of disease and our approaches to health care," NIH said in the funding announcement for the new challenge program. "At the same time, these advances have identified new gaps in our knowledge and have created needs for new technologies."

These grants are designed to help investigators "to address these unique challenges by addressing new avenues of research in defined areas where progress would produce a significant impact on biomedical or behavioral science and/or health research," NIH explained.

The Challenge Grants program will fund a wide array of genomics and genetics-related research. They will be used to augment genome-wide association studies; to discover genetic factors affecting disease risk with age; to plan genome-wide studies of oral, cranio-facial, and joint disorders; to study the genomics of complex eye disorders; to develop high-throughput technologies; to identify genetic variants linked to heart, lung, and blood diseases using DNA capture and massively parallel sequencing and selective genotyping; and to pursue other genomics and disease research.

Researchers involved in biomarker-related research may apply for funds in a number of areas including biomarkers related to damage after acute joint injury; identifying biomarkers to assess the impact of stress, social, biological, and immune functions; developmental studies of biomarkers for oxidative stress in order to assess the antioxidant effects of dietary supplements; the establishment of pain biomarkers and measurements to advance our understanding of pain mechanisms; to develop novel molecular targets from unsuccessful medication trials; developing biosignatures for drug exposure; developing new mass spectrometry technologies; and other research areas.

The Challenge Grants also will support a number of bioethics studies that take on some of the problems brought on by new technologies, treatments, and healthcare policies. These grants will support studies of re-contact issues in genotype and genome-wide association studies; informed consent and data access policies; unique ethical issues posed by emerging technologies; ethical issues associated with electronic sharing of health information; and ethical issues in translating genetic knowledge to clinical practice.

Under the new program, researchers may seek up to $500,000 per year for a total of $1 million over the two-year project period. Applications for the program are due April 27.

More information about the Challenge Grants funding opportunity can be found here.