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SRI Wins $4.5M NHLBI Contract to Create Metabolomics Center

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – SRI International on Monday said that the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute awarded it a $4.5 million contract to establish a center aimed at improving metabolomics research.

Under the terms of the contract, SRI will create the Metabolite Standards Synthesis Center to prepare molecules for use by researchers. Metabolomics offers promise as a technology for detecting and monitoring disease progression, as well as response to therapeutics, SRI said, adding it can help stratify patients and identify new biomarkers and drug targets. But one bottleneck faced by researchers has been an inability to access metabolite standards needed to confirm and quantify their results.

"Currently, more than half of all human metabolites are unavailable, and many metabolites have never been synthesized, or their structures have only been speculated, and therefore these important molecules are not available to researchers," Mary Tanga, director of the Center for Chemical Biology in SRI Biosciences and principal investigator of SRI's Metabolite Standards Synthesis Center, said in a statement. "Researchers can pursue the answers to important questions if they actually have the compounds. The reference standards that SRI scientists will synthesize are critical to advances in metabolomics."

The new center will create a library of thousands of metabolites to be made available to the scientific community. Synthesized metabolites will serve as standards for research, help improve the understanding of disease processes, elucidate new disease biomarkers, and provide new methods to monitor therapeutic outcomes, SRI said.

Researchers can submit a request for compound synthesis to the Metabolomics Workbench. SRI will prepare the material upon NIH approval.

The NHLBI contract is part of a program developed by the NIH Common Fund Metabolomics Program, which seeks to increase metabolomics research capacity in the US by supporting infrastructure expansion, training, technology development, and reference standards synthesis.