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Cornell Wins $10M NIH Grant for Center for Reproductive Genomics

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Cornell University has received a $10 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to fund a Center for Reproductive Genomics that will investigate the genomic basis of human reproductive disorders and birth defects, Cornell said on Monday.

The CRG will use the five-year award to pursue four research projects focused on small RNA, or noncoding RNA. The researchers want to understand how small RNA impacts meiotic errors involved in infertility, defects, and other reproductive problems, and translate their findings into new ways to diagnose and treat those disorders.

"My lab focuses on human eggs and sperm, which are prone to chromosomal abnormalities causing birth defects such as Down and Klinefelter’s syndromes," CRG Director Paula Cohen, a professor of genetics at Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine, said in a statement.

"Other CRG researchers work on issues with sperm, or basic cell biology influencing reproduction … Our center aims to learn how and why these problems happen, why they arise in humans more than in other species, what small RNAs have to do with it, and ultimately what we can do about it," Cohen said.

CRG researcher Andrew Grimson, an assistant professor of molecular biology and genetics, will study the timing and targets of small RNA actions that take place during germ cell formation. Darius Paduch, an associate professor of urology and reproductive medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, will investigate the roles and expression of small RNAs in human male germ cells and how testicular small RNAs differ in men with different types of infertility.

John Schimenta, a professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine, will investigate how RNAs differ in men with different types of infertility by examining the function and targets of the conserved small RNAs that are expressed during sperm production.

"We will take these questions from the lab all the way to human medicine, conducting basic biology research in Ithaca and translating it at Weill, where doctors see patients with chromosomal abnormalities and fertility issues," Cohen said.

The grant also will support Cornell's new RNA Sequencing Core, which is run by Director Jen Grenier and will sequence small RNAs and offer its services to other researchers across the campus.

The CRG's co-director, Peter Schlegel, will oversee an outreach core, which will provide bimonthly public seminars on reproductive health, work with physicians outside of Cornell who want to know more about small RNA, and train residents at the center in techniques for investigating small RNAs.

Cornell created the CRG in name only in 2006 and has since been seeking funding to fully establish it and launch its research programs, a spokesperson for Cornell told GenomeWeb Daily News today.