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Correction: NIH Earmarks $48.2M for Progenitor Cell Translational Research Consortium

This article has been updated to correct the amount of funding being made available to $40 million from the previously reported $16.2 million.

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The National Institutes of Health announced that it will commit as much as $40 million over the next seven years to fund the creation of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Progenitor Cell Translational Consortium (PCTC), as well as put up $8.2 million for a coordinating center to manage consortium's activities and outreach.

The consortium's goal, the NIH said, is to translate recent advances in progenitor cell biology, including those made by the NHLBI's Progenitor Cell Biology Consortium and the Lung Repair and Regeneration Consortium, to develop new treatments for cardiovascular, pulmonary, and hematologic diseases. 

"The use of patient-specific induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) in combination with bioengineering advances and genome editing offers unique opportunities for developing personalized disease models and tissues for regenerative medicine," the NIH said. "Coupling multiple organ chips together may offer unique opportunities in drug discovery. Advances in 3D printing also offer exciting new opportunities for regenerative medicine, including incorporation of vascular scaffolds into bioengineered tissues and organs."

Projects of particular interest to the NIH include ones focused on continuing development of patient-specific disease models using progenitor cells and genome editing; using natural or genetically modified progenitor cells and their differentiated progeny for cell therapies and tissue engineering; applying endogenous progenitor cells to tissue repair; and reprogramming progenitor cells in vivo to treat disease.

Examples of research projects appropriate for this funding opportunity include the transplantation of genome-edited iPSC-derived hematopoietic progenitor cells for treatment of sickle cell disease and other monogenic hematologic diseases; the genetic modification of cystic fibrosis lung stem and progenitor cells to improve disease and promote tissue regeneration; and high-level transgene expression in iPSC-derived megakaryocytes to correct Glanzmann's thrombasthenia and Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome.

The NIH said that this funding opportunity is not open to research around cancer or communicable diseases, or projects focused on the empirical application of poorly characterized cells types for cell therapy.

The agency noted that the starting point for translational research varies for different diseases, affecting how far toward clinical implementation investigators can take their work during the seven-year funding period.

"Projects may vary substantially in their objectives and scope of research," the NIH said. "The feasibility of the investigators' projections and the linked milestones will be important review considerations."

The NIH said that it will award up to five PCTC grants, each worth $924,000 in fiscal 2016 and in 2017, and up to $1.2 million in each of fiscal years 2018 through 2022.

Given that PCTC members are expected to interact closely, sharing ideas, data, and resources, the NIH has also earmarked funds for the establishment of a coordinating center that will oversee consortium-wide collaboration and data dissemination.

The coordinating center will be specifically tasked with, among other things, organizing scientific meetings; managing the distribution of funding for subcontracted pilot studies, ancillary projects, and skill-development activities; and developing a means for accessing validated data and resources generated by the PCTC. It will also be responsible for facilitating interactions with other NIH-funded researchers and non-NIH partners.

The NIH said that the coordinating center will be eligible for up to $616,000 in funding in fiscal years 2016 and 2017, and up to $1.4 million in each of fiscal years 2018 through 2022.

Additional information about the funding opportunities can be found here and here.