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NIH Funds Knockout Mouse Project Phase II with $110M

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Institutes of Health has awarded $110 million to fund the second phase of its Knockout Mouse Project (KOMP), an initiative to create a disease research resource that in its first phase created knockout mouse embryonic stem cell lines for the roughly 21,000 coding genes in the mouse.

Over the coming five-year phase, the Knockout Mouse Phenotyping Project (KOMP2) grantees — including Baylor College of Medicine, the University of California, Davis, and the Jackson Laboratory — will work with the International Knockout Mouse Phenotyping Consortium (IMPC) to generate around 5,000 strains of knockout mice for use in clinical phenotyping testing.

The larger aim is to help researchers to establish the traits associated with the function of every protein-coding gene in the mammalian genome, which would enable them to discover the genetic causes of diseases and identify new drug targets.

"The generation of detailed phenotypic information for each knockout mouse strain will be a boon to disease researchers who want to determine the function of genes and to improve mouse models of human disease," NIH Director Francis Collins said in a statement. "I am grateful to all of the people and programs across NIH who are supporting this effort and to our international partners who have joined us in this scientific endeavor."

The KOMP2 grants to Baylor and UC Davis each total around $34 million, and the funding to Jackson Lab is roughly $33 million. Jackson Lab also received a two-year, $500,000 grant to integrate data from KOMP2 into its Mouse Genome Database (MGD). As Genomeweb Daily News reported yesterday, Jackson Lab separately has won a $24.6 million grant to continue funding its MGD resource.

The grant to UC Davis also will fund its project partners including the Toronto Centre for Phenogenomics, the Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute, and Charles River Laboratories.

"Given the extremely high overlap between the mouse and human genomes — 99 percent of the genes are in common — the project will, by inference, elucidate the function of much of the human genome, most of which is currently unknown," Jackson Lab Professor and Chair of Research Bob Braun said in a statement.

BCM Professor of Molecular Medicine and Human Genetics Monica Justice said that the KOMP2 effort also will emphasize understanding function of mammalian genes. "We don't know much about the function of genes in mammals at all," Justice said in a statement. "We will follow a gene-by-gene approach and knockout the genes one by one."

KOMP2's international partners are led by the International Knockout Mouse Consortium, which includes the European Conditional Mouse Mutagenesis Program, funded by the European Union, the Texas A&M Institute for Genomic Medicine, and the North American Conditional Mouse Mutagenesis Project, funded by Genome Canada.

The awards for the KOMP2 production centers will be administered by the National Center for Research Resources, and the National Human Genome Research Institute will administer the awards for the phenotyping centers.

On top of the production and phenotyping centers funding, NIH also awarded a five-year, cooperative agreement of $10 million to the European Bioinformatics Institute in Hinxton, England, which will collaborate with MRC Harwell and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute to establish a data coordination center and database to track the project and to coordinate efforts between KOMP2 and the IMPC. That center also will construct an integrated web portal to provide researchers access to the phenotype data.

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