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NIMH to Provide $4M for PsychENCODE Project

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Institute of Mental Health plans to provide around $4 million in Fiscal Year 2014 to support research efforts under the PsychENCODE project.

PsychENCODE follows on efforts of the National Human Genome Research Institute's Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) project, which was launched a decade ago with the aim of cataloguing the functional elements encoded in the human genome. NIMH noted in its request for applications that although the ENCODE project has covered more than 1600 experiments in 147 cell types and has led to dozens of papers detailing its findings, "there is still a gap with respect to regulatory elements in the brain and how they may relate to neural function or the development of mental disorders."

NIMH said that the PsychENCODE awards will support research in the discovery and characterization of non-coding functional genomic elements including enhancers, promoters, silencers, long non-coding RNAs, microRNAs, and piwi-interacting RNAs. The research is expected to elucidate the roles of these elements in the molecular pathophysiology of mental illness through genome-wide examination of various human cell and tissue sources, such as the human brain. NIMH also said that a focus of the project is to identify human-specific elements.

Among the efforts specifically encouraged by the RFA are research that would map and quantify non-coding elements in human brain regions and their role in the development of mental disorders and related brain phenotypes; identify non-coding elements in human brain that map to regions of the genome implicated by genome-wide association studies, copy number variants, and sequencing studies in mental disorders; compare studies using humans and non-human primates; and identify trans-effects of non-coding human brain transcripts on other genes — such effects could include regulation of gene expression, alternative splicing, translational regulation, and their effects on phenotype.

NIMH plans to provide $4 million in FY 2014 to support between three and six awards.

It also encourages researchers to use existing resources, such as the CommonMind Project, the Autism Tissue Program, The Genotype-Tissue Expression Project, and BrainSpan, to aid in their studies.