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NIH Plots Target Validation Initiative with Industry, Academia

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Institutes of Health is planning to work with industry, government, and academia to create a collaborative precompetitive consortium focused on validating potential therapeutic targets using genomics, bioinformatics, and functional validation, according to NIH.

To kick off the initiative, NIH will hold a joint workshop on Nov. 3 and 4 with multiple partners from these sectors to explore the potential opportunities and challenges facing this type of initiative. The larger aim of the project is to develop faster and more accurate ways to realize the potential of translating new discoveries, identify promising targets, and predict which targets will be "biologically relevant and tractable," according to NIH.

The workshop is not open to the public, and as a closed-door meeting NIH has not released a list of the industry, academic, and other partners that will attend the workshop.

NIH said it has observed that "there are an extraordinary number of potential therapeutic targets emerging from basic-science discoveries" that are creating new translational opportunities.

"Genome-wide association studies and genome sequencing research, for example, are opening many avenues of exploration for therapeutics development," according to NIH.

The institutes have recognized that there is value in working with industry and academia in the precompetitive stage, particularly in the area of target validation, because such consortia can harness the strengths of a number of organizations and sectors.

It is not immediately clear if the initiative will be managed under the new National Center for Advancing Translational Resources (NCATS), which was designed by NIH Director Francis Collins and supported by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to pursue such projects.

"NCATS is expected to offer innovative approaches to the development pipeline, provide novel approaches to diagnostics and therapeutics development, stimulate new avenues for basic scientific discovery, and complement existing NIH and private sector research," Sebelius stated in her HHS funding request to Congress for 2012.

Funding for NIH for 2012 still has yet to be determined, as the federal government is currently operating under a continuing resolution while Congress is engaged in budget talks, but the most recent Senate-approved plan would provide $582 million to launch NCATS.

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