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NIH Awards $38.5M to Fund Developmental Genotype-Tissue Expression Project

NEW YORK – The National Institutes of Health will award $38.5 million over five years to the Developmental Genotype-Tissue Expression (dGTEx) project to establish a store of high-quality pediatric tissue and gene expression data.

The project aims to collect tissues and to build gene expression profiles from at least 120 post-mortem pediatric donors. The information will inform a variety of studies, such as those investigating the impact of genomic variation on complex traits and diseases. It also will help address the frequent shortage of "normal" tissue, used for comparison in pediatric illnesses.

"There’s still so much we don’t know about how our gene expression evolves and changes over time," Jyoti Dayal, a program director in the National Human Genome Research Institute Division of Genomic Medicine, said in a statement. "We hope this project will lend more insight into how our genes are expressed at each stage in our lives."

The NHGRI and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development will each contribute $14.25 million over five years to the dGTEx through two NHGRI awards and one NICHD award.

The NICHD award will fund a Biospecimen Procurement Center to facilitate collaboration between medical examiners and organ donor organizations, and to support research on the ethical, legal, and social implications of collecting tissues from deceased pediatric donors to explore the impact of tissue donation and genetic analysis on the families of the donors.

The NHGRI awards will be used to establish Laboratory, Data Analysis and Coordinating Centers where genome sequencing and gene expression analysis of the tissues collected at the Biospecimen Procurement Center will be done.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and National Institute of Mental Health will each contribute an additional $5 million to fund the procurement and genomic analyses of developmental brain tissues.

The dGTEx is an extension of the GTEx consortium, which the NIH founded 11 years ago in response to a perceived gap in the availability of high-quality tissue samples and associated gene expression information. The consortium has collected samples from over 900 post-mortem adult donors to date.

"The resource created by the dGTEx project could have huge implications for genomic medicine as we understand the changes that occur during human development," said John Ilekis, a program director in the pregnancy and perinatology branch at NICHD.