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NDRI Wins $6M for GTEx Scale-up

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Institutes of Health has awarded a $6 million grant to the National Disease Research Interchange, which will work with partners to procure new organ and tissue donors for the next phase of the Genotype-Tissue Expression, or GTEx, project, NDRI said today.

The GTEx effort was launched by the NIH Common Fund in 2010 to provide the research community with a resource for studies of how gene expression and regulation are related to genetic variation, and how these factors are correlated with human disease.

"GTEx has an ambitious program to finely analyze genetic and epigenetic variations in human cells within each of the different organs. The results, once we learn to interpret the massive amounts of data, will bring us one step closer to understanding the many subtle signatures of human organs," Meenhard Herlyn, a professor at the Wistar Institute and chairman of NDRI's board of directors, said in a statement.

This new funding is part of a scale-up of the GTEx project, which has concluded a pilot phase that tested the feasibility of collecting high-quality tissue from 30 to 50 sites in the body.

NDRI and its partners now will use this round of funding over the next 15 months to procure 150 organ donors and 100 tissue donors. A second 15-month phase is set to follow this one, and NDRI's goal is to have procured 700 new donors when both phases are completed.

NDRI's partners on the project include the collaborators at the Gift of Life Donor Program in Philadelphia; LifeNet Health in, Virginia Beach, Va.; Pittsburgh's Center for Organ Recovery and Education; the Washington Regional Transplant Community, Washington, DC; and Houston's LifeGift.

"We've found over the course of the pilot project that the quality of the donor tissue collected by NDRI was extremely good. As we move in to the scale up, the next challenge will be to maintain this level of quality, while doubling the number of donors collected for the study," the Broad Institute's Kristin Ardlie, co-principal investigator on the project, said in a statement.

This award also includes $1.1 million to fund a sub-study of some of the ethical, legal, and social implications related to donor recruitment and consent policies.

This project, which NDRI will conduct with partners at Virginia Commonwealth University, will study the impact of stress and complex information on donor's families and how that can inform the consent process as well as how variations in consent and request methods can affect the potential donors. The overall goal of this project will be to develop a set of recommendations to maximize the likelihood that families will make informed decisions about consenting to donate samples and organs.