Posts Tagged ‘NIH’

Why the medical system cannot handle your info and what can be done about it

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 08-03-2011

Yesterday, we told you about a study that found that family physicians are ill-prepared when it comes to diagnosing and treating patients based on their genomic data. As a follow up to that story, I’d like to bring your attention to a recent post by W. Gregory Feero, MD, PhD on KevinMD which talks about the overwhelming growth of genomic data and how the pace of discovery is far exceeding the capacity of the health care system’s IT infrastructure.

According to Dr. Feero, medical record keeping in the United States is a far cry away from being able to house the hundreds of petabytes of genomic data that will eventually need to be stored in their systems. Furthermore, upgrading to compatible systems are bound to be prohibitively expensive. He also postulates that the falling cost of genome sequencing might make it cheaper to sequence individual data on an as-needed basis as opposed to storing the data en-masse.

For further reading visit Data overload and the pace of genomic science

Your opportunity to influence NIH funding

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 07-27-2011

Rarely do scientists get an opportunity to influence the funding direction of the largest granting agency in the United States, the National Institute of Health. Yet that is exactly what we are being asked to do in the NIH’s latest request for information.

The NIH is requesting that the scientific community send in its ideas on how best to support or accelerate neuroscience research. Responses should address:

  1. areas of neuroscience research that could be accelerated by the development of specific research resources or tools
  2. major opportunities for, and impediments to, advancing neuroscience research
  3. the 2-3 highest priority tools or resources needed to capitalize on the scientific opportunities and overcome obstacles to progress in neuroscience research
  4. how NIH Blueprint might best facilitate the development of these tools/resources

Your answers could influence where neuroscience funding is directed over the next couple of years so be sure to checkout the NIH website to add your two cents!

Money for Commercializing Proteomic and Glycomic Techonolgies

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 05-24-2011

I was recently alerted to a new NIH funding opportunity described in this GenomeWeb News post which I thought would be of interest to the American Biotechnologist audience.

Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) Number PA-11-215 is a Small Business Innovation Research (STTR) grant for research involved in developing new technology for proteomics and glycomics. The funding opportunity was originally issued in April 2006 as PA-04-089 and has undergone several revisions in the intervening years.

Interestingly, despite major advances in the field of proteomics since 2006, there are many similarities in the language of the original announcement and the most recent version. In particular, I was struck by the comparability of the following two blurbs:

From 2006:

Technologies and methods remain largely inadequate to address the majority of meaningful biological problems, particularly with respect to quantitative and real time measurements.

From 2011:

Despite explosive growth in both academic and commercial efforts, concrete technical capabilities are far from adequate to realize this promise. Proteomics technologies and methods in the three broad, interacting domains of biology, analytical chemistry, and informatics are still largely inadequate to address the bulk of challenging biological problems.

I guess that one lesson to be learned from this comparison is that despite rapid techonological advances, lots of work remains to be done!

The NIH will provide up to $350,000 for Phase I and $600,000 for Phase II grants for projects addressing an important problem or a critical barrier to progress in the field of proteomics and glycomics that have commercial potential to lead to a marketable product, process or service.

The earliest submission date for the grant is July 5, 2011 and the grant expires on May 8, 2014. Interested applicants should visit the relevant NIH project announcement page.

A user’s guide to the encyclopedia of DNA elements

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 04-21-2011

The international team of the ENCODE, or Encyclopedia Of DNA Elements project, has created an overview of its ongoing large-scale efforts to interpret the human genome sequence.

The April 19 publication of “A User’s Guide to the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE)” in the journal PLoS Biology provides a guide for using the vast amounts of high-quality data and resources produced so far by the project. All of the data, tools to study them, and the paper itself are freely available through multiple websites accessible through

“This project requires collaboration from multiple people all over the world at the cutting edge of their fields, working in a coordinated manner to figure out the function of our human genome,” said Dr. Richard Myers, president and director of the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology and one of the 25 principal investigators of the project. “The importance extends beyond basic knowledge of who and what we are as humans and into understanding of human health and disease.”

The publication demonstrates how ENCODE data can be immediately useful in interpreting associations between single nucleotides and disease, using examples such as the c-Myc gene and cancer. Similar studies are now possible for the thousands of variants identified in genome-wide association studies, addressing mechanistic questions of susceptibility to disease.

Dr. Ewan Birney, senior scientist at the European Bioinformatics Institute and another principal investigator, commented “We knew four years ago, from our publication of ENCODE techniques on 1 percent of the genome, that we had an unprecedented view of how biology works on those regions. By extending our work to the entire genome, we see the immediate impact on the interpretation of noncoding variants identified in genome-wide association studies. These studies are disease-driven but have not always yielded clear next steps, and ENCODE data provide those scientists with some new paths to follow.”

Scientists with the ENCODE Project are applying up to 20 different tests in 108 commonly used cell lines to compile these important data. The current paper not only tells how to find the data, but also explains how to apply the data to interpret the human genome.

One can think of determining the human DNA sequence alone as finding a new language, but without a key to interpret the letters within. The ENCODE project adds data such as where RNA is produced from our DNA, where proteins bind to DNA, and where parts of our DNA are augmented by additional chemical markers. These proteins and chemical additions are keys to understanding how different cells within our bodies are interpreting the language of DNA.

Source: HudsonAlpha via EurekAlert

NIH funding protected despite recent media scare

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 01-26-2011

One of the biggest stories making its way around the life science community this week is the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) creation of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. The story first appeared in the New York Times (NYT) on January 22nd and has generated confusion and concern among scientists worried about their future funding. In this post, I will attempt to summarize the NYT article and the reactions it has received from both the NIH and the general public.

The NIH is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is made up of 27 Institutes and Centers and funds over $31.2 billion annually in medical research. Suffice to say the NIH funds the majority of America’s medical R&D programs and therefore any changes to the NIH funding structure is bound to garner concern among American scientists.

According to the NYT article, the NIH will be creating a new center called the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS). The purpose of NCATS will be to help advance drug and biomedical research in an academic environment until it reaches a mature stage where pharma and biotech companies are prepared to purchase the technology and turn it into a commercial therapeutic. The NYT mentions that

“under the plan, more than $700 million in research projects already under way at various institutes and centers would be brought together at the new center”

The article also contains a statement that has been responsible for much of this week’s controversy.

“Dr. (Francis) Collins (director of the NIH) has hinted that he is willing to cannibalize other parts of the health institutes to bring more resources to the new center.”

In practical terms, this means that the NIH would have to get rid of one of the existing centers in order for the plan to move forward in a timely fashion. As a result, the NIH has decided to close the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR) which funds 30,000 scientists to the tune of $1.25 billion annually.

The creation of NCATS has generated 55 pages of comments/complaints which can be viewed on the NCATS complaint blog. A large number of comments have been posted by NCRR investigators worried that the collapse of the NCRR will lead to the discontinuation of their project’s funding. Many are concerned that their funding will dry up altogether while others are worried about the dilution affect that breaking up NCRR and spreading its programs throughout the remaining institutes will have on the quality of their research. For example, Dr. Richard Winn writes:

“I have been alerted to the potential fate of the NCRR Division of Comparative Medicine as part of the NCATS. As a researcher focused on using primarily rodent and aquatic animal models, the Division of Comparative Medicine has provided for me the solitary group that consistently recognized and promoted the use of diverse animal models in advancing biomedical research. Recent advances in nearly all of the “omics” (e.g. genomics, proteomics, metabolomics, etc.)have reinforced and proven the value of comparative approaches. However, efforts to “simplify” programs under the guise of administrative expediency will threaten the necessary focus of such approaches. Comparative Medicine needs to be maintained as a discrete entity under a single administrative leadership and management. Please consider carefully how such re-organization can ultimately disrupt a vibrant and productive research community.”

All this has forced Dr. Collins et al. to release a statement entitled Separating fact & fiction: News about the proposed National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences which can be viewed here.His response consists of five bullet points with the two key messages identified below:

  • For the most part, the budget and staff for each relocated program will remain with that program
  • There are no plans to “cannibalize” the budgets or programs of other NIH Institutes and Centers to form NCATS

So, if you are currently funded by the NCRR, you likely have little cause for concern.

Furthermore, as expressed by Mathew Herper at Forbes, the creation of an institute that focuses on advancing drug development “is a smart approach for academic researchers to take if they want to develop drugs” and will help in the advancement and commercialization of treatments in areas that would have otherwise not have been developed by large drug companies (such as rare diseases).