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NIH Pumps $5.8M into Druggable Genome Pilot Projects

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The National Institutes of Health has awarded $5.8 million to eight universities and research institutions to launch an initiative focused on genes and proteins in the human genome that can be altered by medicines.

NIH said today these grants kick off the Illuminating the Druggable Genome (IDG) program, a pilot project that will investigate the approximately 3,000 genes that express proteins that could be altered by drugs. Only 10 percent of these "druggable genes" are currently targeted by drugs approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, NIH said.

"We have a gap in the drug development pipeline between what gene activities we know could be modified by medication and what currently is targeted," James Anderson, director of the NIH Common Fund's Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives, said in a statement. "By focusing on understudied genes, we hope to find potential targets for medications to treat or cure some of our most burdensome diseases – and then share what we learn so that all can build on this knowledge."

Researchers funded by the IDG will tackle the drug gap by investigating druggable genes involved in four groups: nuclear receptors, ion channels, protein kinases, and G-protein coupled receptors. They will initially examine uncharacterized genes and deposit the data they generate into a public resource. They also will develop techniques to swiftly identify and describe these genes, with the aim of creating a common language that can be used in multiple experimental systems.

One of the grants will go to the University of New Mexico, which will establish a Knowledge Management Center in collaboration with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai in New York to support the program.

Seven other grants were awarded to six institutions including the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (which received two grants); Massachusetts General Hospital; the University of California, San Francisco; Yale University; the J. David Gladstone Institutes; and Baylor College of Medicine.

The IDG awards were funded primarily by the NIH Common Fund, but support also came from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences; the National Institute of Mental Health; the National Cancer Institute; and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Specific information about the projects and the funding provided to each institution was not immediately available. However, a spokesperson for the Gladstone Institutes told GenomeWeb Daily News via e-mail that a Gladstone researcher would receive $1.5 million over three years.

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