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NIH Invests $161M in 14 New Pharmacogenomics Research Network Projects


Originally published Sept. 7.

By Turna Ray

The National Institutes of Health this week said it would grant $161.3 million over the next five years to 14 new projects under the Pharmacogenomics Research Network.

PGRN, launched in 2000, is an effort spearheaded by NIH's National Institute of General Medical Sciences. With this new funding, the NIH hopes to continue PGx research in existing focus areas of cancer, heart disease, asthma, and nicotine addiction, and also to expand into new areas, including rheumatoid arthritis and bipolar disorder.

The bulk of the PGx projects being funded under the new awards focus on treatments for highly prevalent diseases and conditions, such as oncologics, anti-hypertensives for cardiovascular conditions, depression treatments, therapies to control nicotine addition, anti-TNF therapies for rheumatoid arthritis, and asthma drugs. NIH is awarding two grants to PGx projects in childhood cancer and for diseases that impact rural and underserved populations.

"There are plenty of opportunities in the field of pharmacogenomics right now. Certainly, a strong renewal of the PGRN reflects that," Rochelle Long, the head of pharmacogenomics research programs at NIGMS, told PGx Reporter this week.

According to Long, since its launch a decade ago, the PGRN has broadened its focus beyond an initial emphasis in cardiovascular research, cancer, and neuroscience. "You're seeing an increase in the overall investment, and really you're seeing strong support because of the strength of the scientific applications," she said.

Simultaneous to announcing funding for the PGRN projects, NIH also announced it would award $15 million over the next five years to expand a PGx data hub called the Pharmacogenomics Knowledge Base (see related story, in this issue). "PharmGKB is also renewed because they are working in the same [PGx] area, and they do partner together," Long said.

The PGRN projects funded by NIH in this round did not receive funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which doled out around $45 million to various PGx projects last year (PGx Reporter 11/11/09). A few of the individual academic centers may have received ARRA funding for different PGx projects.

According to NIH Director Francis Collins, the growing availability of sequencing technologies has contributed to the growth of PGx knowledge, and "there has never been a better time to propel the field of pharmacogenomics."

As part of the $160 million in funding, seven PGRN resource centers supporting PGx research also received grants, many of them outfitted with sequencing capabilities. For example, the Human Genome Sequencing Center at Baylor College of Medicine, headed by Richard Gibbs, is one such PGRN resource center receiving $2.3 million from NIH (see below for a complete list of grant recipients).

Other resources being funded by NIH will benefit PGRN scientists by developing standardized terminology for pharmacogenomics research; piloting ways to learn about pharmacogenomics from de-identified medical records in health care systems; and continuing and expanding a two-year-old international collaboration with the Center for Genomic Medicine at the Riken Institute in Yokohama, Japan.

Although PGRN funds go to academic research, scientists receiving these grants are urged to translate their findings into commercial personalized drug and diagnostics products through collaborations with industry.

"This is an academic research network, and it does interact with for-profit ventures. There is no question that, be it through healthcare delivery, or pharmacy benefits providers, or industry drug development, the PGRN is encouraged to have dialogue with those stakeholders," Long said, adding that when collaborations do happen between PGRN researchers and industry, the data is always made publicly available to researchers.

An important stakeholder in PGRN research is the US Food and Drug Administration, Long noted. "FDA officials are invited to PGRN meetings or to participate in PGRN projects," she said. While the FDA does not play a funding role in PGRN, the agency is working to expand its own ability to integrate pharmacogenomics data in its regulatory and drug review activities. As such, FDA officials can observe the Clinical Pharmacogenomics Implementation Consortium, a PGRN effort that makes recommendations on how drugs should be dosed based on genetic data.

The PGRN is funded by nine NIH entities: NIGMS; the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; the National Cancer Institute; the National Institute on Drug Abuse; the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; the National Human Genome Research Institute; the National Institute of Mental Health; the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases; and the Office of Research on Women's Health in the Office of the Director.

Grant Recipients:

Kathleen Giacomini, University of California, San Francisco, ($11.9 million)
Pharmacogenomics of Membrane Transporters (the Global Alliance for
Pharmacogenomics is also associated with this award)

Julie Johnson, University of Florida, Gainesville ($9.8 million)
Pharmacogenomic Evaluation of Antihypertensive Responses

John Kelsoe, University of California, San Diego, ($6.4 million)
Pharmacogenomics of Mood Stabilizer Response in Bipolar Disorder

Ronald Krauss, Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute ($9.4 million)
Pharmacogenomics and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease (the Human Exome Resequencing resource is also associated with this award)

Caryn Lerman, University of Pennsylvania, and Rachel Tyndale, University of Toronto, ($12 million)
Pharmacogenetics of Nicotine Addiction Treatment

Robert Plenge, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston ($7.5 million)
Genetic Predictors of Response to Anti-TNF Therapy in Rheumatoid Arthritis

Mark Ratain, Nancy Cox, and M. Eileen Dolan, University of Chicago ($10.3 million)
PAAR — Pharmacogenomics of Anticancer Agents Research Group

Mary Relling, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, Tenn. ($8.6 million)
PAAR4Kids — Pharmacogenomics of Anticancer Agents Research in Children

Dan M. Roden, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tenn. ($12.4 million)
Pharmacogenomics of Arrhythmia Therapy (the PGRN Statistical Analysis Resource and Pharmacogenomic Discovery and Replication in Very Large Populations project are also associated with this award)

Wolfgang Sadee, Ohio State University, Columbus ($9.1 million)
Expression Genetics in Drug Therapy

Alan Shuldiner, University of Maryland, Baltimore ($11.4 million)
Pharmacogenomics of Anti-Platelet Intervention-2 (PAPI-2) Study

Kenneth Thummel and Wylie G. Burke, University of Washington, Seattle ($10.2 million) Pharmacogenetics in Rural and Underserved Populations

Richard Weinshilboum, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. ($11.2 million)
Pharmacogenetics of Phase II Drug Metabolizing Enzymes (Next Generation DNA Sequencing and Pharmacogenomic Ontology Network Resource are also associated with this award)

Scott Weiss and Kelan Tantisira, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston ($9.8 million)
Pharmacogenetics of Asthma Treatment

PGRN resources receiving funding:

Kathleen Giacomini, University of California, San Francisco ($3.2 million)
Global Alliance for Pharmacogenomics

Richard Gibbs, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas ($2.3 million)
Next Generation DNA Sequencing

Elaine Mardis, Washington University, St. Louis ($3.0 million)
Next Generation Sequencing

Deborah Nickerson, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle ($3.9 million)
Human Exome Resequencing

Marylyn Ritchie, Vanderbilt University, Nashville ($2.4 million)
PGRN Statistical Analysis Resource

Dan Roden, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville ($3.4 million)
Pharmacogenomic Discovery and Replication in Very Large Populations

Christopher Chute, Mayo Clinic, Rochester ($3.1 million)
Pharmacogenomic Ontology Network Resource