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Federal Government Outlays $37M in Grants for Toxicogenomics Consortium

NEW YORK, Nov. 6 — The federal government has announced $37 million in new grants for a new consortium designed to apply genomics techniques to toxicology and environmental health problems. 

Under the program, called the Toxicogenomics Research Consortium, five research centers will receive five-year grants of more than $7 million apiece from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the agency announced late on Monday.

Projects to be studied include: an effort at NIEHS labs and two others at Duke University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to understand environmental stresses on human health through gene expression profiling; a project at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to study the genomic response to toxicants; an effort at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research center in Seattle to look at gene expression profiles in human cells and transgenic mice and rats; and a study of cell-specific injury in the central nervous system at the Oregon Health and Science University.

Researchers will work on independent projects and also on collaborative efforts, said Michael McClure, the chief of the organs and systems toxicology branch in the office of program development. McClure works in the NIEHS’ division of extramural research and training.

The consortium will be led by the NIEHS, which will coordinate the grantees and also connect their research to the intramural work of the Toxicogenomics Research Consortium, the institute said.

The program is “primarily designed to bring the power of functional genomics and proteomics research to bear on the pathological and pathophysiological mechanisms that result from environmental agent exposures,” said McClure, who is the program administrator.

This is the first major granting project of NIEHS’ new National Center for Toxicogenomics, launched last December to coordinate national research into the nascent field of genomic toxicology. 

According to scientists, the research may help yield faster and more accurate tests for environmental pollutants; better understanding of the cellular response to toxins and environmentally related carcinogenesis; the identification of new biomarkers for toxin exposure; and improved drug treatments for toxin-related diseases. 

According to the NIEHS, toxicogenomics may improve the science of environmental risk assessment, which has been hampered to date by the limitations of in vitro analysis and animal models.

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