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NIH Autism Grants to Fund 'Omics, PGx Studies

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Institutes of Health will support a wide range of clinical, basic, and applied research into autism spectrum disorders, including studies that pursue genomics, pharmacogenomics, and diagnostic screening technologies.

Funded through three new grants under the Research on Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders program, these studies are aimed at developing an understanding of the etiology, epidemiology, diagnosis, and treatment for ASDs.

The program was started to pursue research sought by the US Congress when it passed the Combating Autism Act of 2006, which led to the development of a strategic plan to use short-term and long-term studies to learn about ASDs and to try and develop treatments.

Specifically, this program will support: R01 grants for up to five years that may vary in size due to the nature and scope of the projects; R03 funding of up to $50,000 per year for two-year projects; and R21 grants for two years that give up to $200,000 in direct costs per year.

The genetic studies could include family-based or population-based genetic analysis that seeks to identify specific susceptibility genes using whole-exome and whole-genome sequencing approaches; study epigenetic mechanisms and long-range control of gene expression; analyze the interaction of susceptibility genes with environmental exposures; and genetic factors that contribute to therapeutic response.

Pharmacogenomic research funded under these grants could include analysis and DNA sequence data that predict drug responses or adverse reactions; correlate drug-response profiles with intermediate phenotypes; identify biomarkers for drug responses; use high-throughput approaches to screen for drug candidates; and studies of allelic variation occurring in individual transporter genes.

Researchers studying autism epidemiology may use the grants to understand the genetic and environmental epidemiology of ASDs, including environmental exposures during pregnancy and early childhood, interactive genetic and environmental risk factors, and other approaches.

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