The National Institutes of Health awarded about $15 million during the first six months of this year to support projects that are related to microarray and multiplexing technologies.
In total, 44 grants were identified where the investigators said specifically that they intended to use arrays or develop new multiplexing platforms going forward. Of those 44 grants, 32 were focused on basic research, and plan to use arrays to profile gene, microRNA, and protein expression, as well as to assess DNA methylation and to perform whole-genome genotyping.
Another three grants were awarded to core facilities and laboratories to support their activities and to purchase new equipment.
While basic research netted the greatest amount of funding in the first half of the year, the NIH awarded money to seven different projects developing new technologies, and an additional two projects that seek to develop new diagnostics on existing, commercial platforms.
All of the funding amounts discussed here are for one year only.
Research on the Rise
Nearly $10 million of the $15 million awarded to researchers using arrays between January and July went to projects that could be characterized as basic research. The goals of those projects varied, but grantees were united in their desire to use as many platforms as possible, citing plans to use gene and microRNA expression arrays, protein arrays, and tissue microarrays, as well as perform DNA methylation analysis and SNP genotyping, and then to integrate data generated by those platforms with next-generation sequencing data.
For example, a team at the Harvard University School of Public Health, recipients of $2.7 million, the largest grant awarded during the first six months of the year, plan to conduct expression, methylation, and tissue array studies of thousands of cohorts from the 37-year-old, ongoing Nurses' Health Study, which pairs information collected from recurring questionnaires with genomic data (see related story,
"Eventually, we would like to collect mutation information, exome and whole genome, as well as expression of non-coding RNAs, [and] proteins," Andy Beck, a pathologist working on the project, told BioArray News this week. "I think we would like to get the full spectrum."
Likewise, researchers at the University of Michigan in January received $737,000, the second largest array-related research grant so far this year. According to the grant's abstract, they intend to use both whole-genome sequencing and SNP genotyping arrays to study age-related traits, with a focus on cardiovascular risks, in an isolated population from the Italian island of Sardinia.
And investigators from Mount Sinai School of Medicine received $604,000, the third largest array-related research grant awarded in the first half of the year, to study the genomics of lung adenocarcinoma using a multitude of platforms. According to the grant's abstract, they intend to use DNA and RNA microarrays, whole-genome sequencing, and fluorescence in situ hybridization to test their hypothesis that genomic loci with integrated alterations of copy number and mRNA levels are important for the acquisition of invasion and metastasis capacity in lung adenocarcinoma.
Core facilities and laboratories that support such research netted close to $2 million to fund their activities. The Molecular Targets Center of Biomedical Research Excellence at the University of Louisville nabbed $1.2 million earlier this month to support its microarray, metabolomic, molecular modeling, and animal model cores. Also earlier this month, investigators at Rockefeller University received $1.4 million to establish a Center for Molecular and Epigenetic Research of Cell Types Mediating Addictive Behaviors that will include microarray and sequencing services. Grants for both centers are funded through 2018. Rounding out the trio of facilities-related grants made at the beginning of the month, researchers at the University of California, Davis, received $261,000 to acquire a Fluidigm BioMark HD System.
New Technologies and Tests
The NIH awarded $2.6 million to develop new platforms and tests during the first six months of the year. Six of the nine grantees that received such grants were private companies. The remaining three were academic institutions.
Starting off the year was Bay Area startup Cellular Research, which in January was awarded $360,000 to develop a noninvasive test for Down syndrome in prenatal samples that relies on a microarray-based, DNA molecule counting approach. Some of the elements of Cellular Research's approach were developed at Affymetrix, and cofounder and chairman Stephen Fodor and former vice president of genotyping research Glenn Fu are both founders of the new company (BAN 1/8/2013).
Other companies to gain NIH backing are Advanced Diamond Technologies, which in March received $250,000 to develop a "highly multiplexed ultracrystalline diamond microarray sensor;" and Twistnostics, which in January received $150,000 to create a biosensor for pharmacogenomic and infectious disease testing (BAN 3/26/2013).
More recently, Synthomics, Biosensing Instrument, and Cell Microsystems all received NIH funding to support platform development. Bay Area-based Synthomics said in its grant abstract that it will use $135,000 to develop an oligonucleotide synthesizer capable of generating plates of 1,536 oligos, "as opposed to the industry standard 96 oligonucleotides." Chapel Hill, NC-based Cell Microsystems netted $150,000 in May to develop a platform that it claims can culture and isolate cells and colonies of cells. And Tempe, Ariz.-based Biosensing Instrument in May received $350,000 to develop an electrochemically-enhanced plasmonic imaging system for the "study of sub-cellular processes, and performing high-throughput analysis in multi-cellular and microarray formats."