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Brazil Plans $680M for Research Institutes; Includes Genomics Center

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – A number of Brazilian research centers in the state of Sao Paolo, including a human genomics institute, will be funded with an estimated $680 million over the next 11 years, with $370 million of that funding coming from the Sao Paolo Research Foundation (FAPESP).

The 17 Research, Innovation, and Dissemination Centers (RIDCs) that will receive the funding will engage in a wide range of biomedical research projects and includes the Human Genome and Stem Cell Research Center (HUG-CELL) at the University of Sao Paolo, the foundation said yesterday.

Under the plan, FAPESP will provide $370 million over the 11-year period, and the multiple institutions that will host these centers will provide a total of around $310 million.

Each of these RIDCs will establish a research hub in its particular discipline, and they will aim to develop efforts that will contribute commercially or socially in high-impact areas and provide education programs.

The HUG-CELL at the University of Sao Paolo, which was formerly called the Human Genome Research Center (HGRC), will receive around $3 million for the first year of the program, including around $1.5 million to support scholarships.

The original genome center was established in 2000 with the goal of studying genetic diseases that are prevalent in the Brazilian population. Its projects focused on Mendelian disorders, and in 2005 it was expanded to incorporate stem cell research. Now that program has been revised and expanded again to include research into genomic instability associated with aging and degenerative diseases, epigenetic mechanisms that are involved in disease, and phenotypic variability between individuals with Mendelian disease mutations.

The HUG-CELL will use next-generation sequencing and cell sorting technologies and will engage in interdisciplinary projects. It also will aim to advance translational medicine projects, particularly stem-cell therapies in preclinical studies and therapeutic trials for particular genetic disorders with an eye toward commercialization.

According to HUG-CELL, the ethnic variation of Brazil offers a "rich foundation" for these studies. It has embarked on a program to offer molecular diagnostics and genetic counseling to the population, with the goal of developing new kits for diagnosing rare diseases and eventually translating these genomic tools through partnerships with start-up biotech enterprises.

Another HUG-CELL initiative, dubbed the 'over 80 project', will compare genomic variation and brain functioning, using MRI, of healthy individuals over the age of 80 with another group that is over 60.

Other institutes that will receive funding under the program include a Food Research Center; the Brazilian Research Institute for Neuroscience and Neurotechnology; the Center for Research on Inflammatory Diseases; the Center for Research and Innovation in Biodiversity and Drug Discovery; the Center for Research on Toxins, Immune Response and Cell Signaling; and the Center for Research in Cell Therapy, among others.

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