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NHLBI Grants $64.5M for Exome Sequencing Project

This article has been clarified to note that the Broad Institute has developed its own exome sequencing method, which it will use in the NHLBI Large-Scale DNA Sequencing Project.

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) - The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has pumped just over $64 million of stimulus funding into a program that will use DNA sequencing and molecular profiling methods on samples from several major population studies to understand major diseases, NHLBI said today.

The six new American Recovery and Reinvestment Act-funded Grand Opportunity awards are part of NHLBI's Large-Scale DNA Sequencing Project. The funding will support sequencing on samples from clinical data gathered from population studies on heart, lung, and blood diseases.

The project will give $50 million in support for research at two genome sequencing centers and around $14.5 million for the cohort and data management end of the projects.

According to NHLBI, one of the Large-Scale DNA Sequencing Project's principal investigators, Deborah Nickerson, a professor of genome sciences at the University of Washington, has pioneered an exome sequencing method. She is one of the recipients of funding announced today by NHLBI.

The Broad Institute also has developed its own exome sequencing method and is receiving funding under the program. The Broad's efforts as a sequencuing center will be led by Stacey Gabriel.

The two-year project will analyze genomic data from more than 8,000 participants in long-term studies to find genetic contributors to heart, lung, and blood diseases, including heart attack, stroke, diabetes, obesity, asthma, chronic pulmonary disease, hypertension, and pre-cancerous blood disorders, such as myelodysplastic syndrome, NHLBI said.

All of the data from the project will be made available through the National Institutes of Health's database to the research community, "prompting a significant multiplier effect toward medical discovery," NHLBI said.

While genome-wide association studies has provided "tantalizing hints" about genetic causes and contributors for diseases, they also have "not provided enough detail" about genes to enable researchers to see propensities for diseases or about interactions with environmental factors, according to NHLBI.

According to NHLBI, the Large-Scale DNA Sequencing Project "greatly enhances the opportunity for researchers to discover specific genetic variants that map precisely with disease phenotypes by enabling them to scour thousands of DNA sequences in extremely fine detail."

NHLBI said that the $64.5 million in stimulus funding will provide:

• $25 million to the University of Washington, which will serve as a Sequencing Center;
• $25 million to the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, which also will be a sequencing center;
• $4.5 million to Ohio State University Medical Center, which will manage the contributions of the Women's Health Initiative cohort;
• $5.2 million to the University of Washington for managing NHLBI lung cohorts;
• $2.5 million to Washington University in St. Louis to manage data from patients with myelodysplastic syndrome; and
• $2.3 million to the University of Virginia Health System to coordinate data from six NHLBI cohorts.

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