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NIH Earmarks $2M to Fund Genomic, Epigenomic Studies of Gynecologic Disorders

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The National Institutes of Health announced that it will provide $2 million over the next fiscal year to support research into the use of genomic and epigenomic technologies to address gynecologic disorders.

The money will specifically be used to fund two to eight research projects focusing on endometriosis, adenomyosis, uterine fibroids, or pelvic floor disorders including organ prolapse, urinary incontinence, and fecal incontinence in women.

According to the NIH, efforts such as the Human Genome Project and the NIH Roadmap Epigenomics Program have helped lead to the development of new technologies for high-throughput analysis of genomic and epigenomic profiles.

When coupled with the latest bioinformatics tools, these technologies have created opportunities to generate new insights into the pathophysiology of specific disease states, opening the door to new personalized therapies, the agency noted. Still, only a small number of studies have used such technologies to tackle common gynecologic disorders.

With $2 million in first-year funding, the NIH hopes these grants will help close this scientific gap.

The agency said it is seeking grant applications for projects that use global genomic and epigenomic approaches to answer fundamental questions about endometriosis, adenomyosis, uterine fibroids, and pelvic floor disorders.

Such studies should be powered to detect low-frequency alleles, involve the use of state-of-the-art sequencing tools and bioinformatics, and be designed to result in "new paradigms regarding disease etiology and progression," the NIH noted. Additionally, funded projects should generate resources such as datasets and methodologies that will be valuable for the broader gynecologic research community.

The NIH also said that it is primarily interested in studies involving primary human cells and tissues, although the use of mammalian animal models is acceptable with strong justification as to how the model will further the understanding of human disease.

Proposed projects must include an unbiased discovery phase, the agency said. Follow-up analyses to characterize the functional significance of target gene loci identified through such non-directed mapping may be included, but should not be the sole aim of the research.

The NIH noted that it will not consider projects around other gynecological disorders; ones that emphasize other omics technologies, such as proteomics or metabolomics; and studies focused on a single gene, gene set, or highly restricted genomic region already implicated in gynecologic disease.

Also ineligible for funding are studies of genome-wide gene expression of coding or non-coding RNAs, ones involving non-mammalian model systems, and ones using immortalized cell lines to generate genomic or epigenomic data.

Funding will be made available though the NIH's standard R01 and R25 exploratory/developmental grant programs. Additional details about the funding opportunities can be found here and here.