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NIH Re-Issues Three Funding Opportunities To Develop RNAi, Related Technologies


The National Institutes of Health this month re-issued three separate funding opportunity announcements for projects related to digestive disease and nutrition research, brain tumor dispersal, and lysosomal storage disorder therapies — each program specifically naming RNA interference and related technologies.

The first FOA, which is being overseen by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, is designed to "stimulate the application of highly novel approaches to important areas of digestive diseases, including associated cancers, and nutrition research," the NIH said.

The institute said it seeks to "foster the introduction of novel scientific ideas, model systems, tools, agents, targets, and technologies that have the potential to substantially advance biomedical research," with a focus on the digestive system.

Among the areas of special interest to the NIDDK for this funding opportunity is the "development of new methods for temporal and spatial control of transgene expression in gastrointestinal, pancreatic, hepatic, and adipose tissues/cells." These methods include "high output characterization of gene expression and function from parenchymal and epithelial cells under physiological and pathological conditions using … RNA interference."

The NIDDK seeks to foster the "development of new methods for temporal and spatial control of transgene expression in gastrointestinal, pancreatic, hepatic, and adipose tissues/cells," including methods involving RNAi.

The NIDDK is seeking applications for projects from newly independent investigators or established investigators developing a new line of research. The projects may have a term of no longer than two years, with total direct costs limited to $275,000. NIDDK did not disclose the total funding it will set aside for these projects.

The second FOA is focused on supporting projects that "identify the properties of brain tumor cells that cause them to migrate; determine how interaction of tumor cells with normal brain elements affects migrations; and translate understanding of these parameters into interventions that target invading tumor cells." It is being overseen by the National Institute on Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

According to the NINDS, "determining the properties unique to invading brain tumor cells, and understanding how these cells interact with normal brain elements will suggest rational strategies for blocking tumor dispersal. For example, once genes that promote or prevent migration have been identified, their activities can potentially be modulated through strategies such as the use of … siRNAs.

"The ultimate goal is to develop interventions that block infiltration but cause minimal damage to adjacent brain tissue … [and] could potentially transform [a] brain tumor into a manageable chronic disease," the institute added.

The NINDS noted that "interdisciplinary studies that apply new concepts and methodologies from developmental neuroscience, genomics, precursor cell biology, and other related fields are particularly encouraged" under the FOA.

The NINDS has earmarked $1 million in total costs per year for the FOA. Projects are limited to a two-year term, with a total direct cost budget of $275,000 each.

The goal of the third FOA, also being overseen by the NINDS, is to solicit applications for research projects focused on developing central nervous system therapies for lysosomal storage disorders. LSDs are a group of recessive genetic diseases associated with cellular enzymatic deficiencies of acid hydrolases that catalyze the metabolism of glycoproteins, glycolipids, and other macromolecules, as well as defects in transporter proteins leading to pathogenic accumulation of these substances in lysosomes, the NINDS said.

"Once genes that promote or prevent migration have been identified, their activities can potentially be modulated through strategies such as the use of … siRNAs."

Specifically, the NINDS is seeking to fund projects designed to improve CNS treatment outcomes; enhance the effectiveness of delivery and targeting of cells, enzymes, drugs and genes into the brain; and develop novel therapeutic modalities, such as implantable biocapsules and micro-electro-mechanical systems-based devices," the institute said.

Among the types of projects the NINDS expects to fund under the FOA are ones investigating RNAi-mediated therapies of downstream LSD targets. The institute noted that the FOA is not intended to support basic neuroscience research involving LSDs but rather "pre-clinical, translational, and clinical research that targets the neurocognitive and neurodegenerative aspects of this group of diseases and is geared towards the development of therapeutic strategies."

The NINDS has set aside about $1.05 million to support research projects under the FOA. Projects are limited to two-year terms, with total direct costs of up to $275,000.

All three FOAs had previously been issued in 2004.

— Doug Macron ([email protected])

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