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NHLBI to Fund Lung Disease 'Omics Scholars Program

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute wants to see more pulmonary researchers applying 'omics data and genomics-based knowledge to lung disease studies, and plans to fund a new program to train young investigators in using such approaches.

NHLBI will launch a program to provide up to $1 million in 2013 and $2.3 million for the next four years to provide funding, mentorships and other support to provide young investigators with the skills, knowledge, and experience to study the genomic and molecular basis of lung diseases.

The long-term goal of the Career Development in 'Omics of Lung Diseases program is to develop multidisciplinary programs that will help new researchers discover ways to use 'omics in their lung disease studies. These technology areas include genomics, genetics, gene expression, proteomics, metabolomics, and bioinformatics methods for integrating large data sets into a range of disease study types.

Because lung diseases are genetically complex and often involve many genes and environmental factors, identifying major gene pathways and regulatory networks associated with these diseases would lead to more personalized approaches to diagnosing, preventing, and treating them.

The priority areas NHLBI sees for research right now include efforts to integrate genomic and phenomic profiles to reclassify lung diseases and to identify novel and robust biomarkers for lung diseases.

A shortage of investigators trained in 'omics is keeping the lung disease research community from reaping the benefits of the latest genomic and molecular knowledge related to these lung diseases, NHLBI said.

"We believe that this is due in part to the lack of a critical mass of junior investigators properly trained in the 'omics' and interested in applying their knowledge to the diseases of the lung," it explained in a request for applications this week.

This program seeks to amend the dearth of trained researchers by recruiting new investigators via mentored scholarships into careers that focus on pulmonary 'omics. To make that happen, NHLBI will provide $75,000 in salary support and benefits and $11,500 for research expenses to investigators receiving the awards for up to three years.

The research areas the scholars may pursue include, but are not limited to, genome-wide discovery of elements associated with lung diseases; epigenomic profiling to understand the interaction of genes with environmental risk factors; metagenomics studies of the human microbiota in the pathogenesis of lung diseases; research into existing genomic data to discover biomarkers and therapeutic targets; discovery and validation of protein biomarkers to subtype lung diseases; and modeling and bioinformatics efforts to analyze existing omics datasets using sharing platforms.