|NIH Launches Center to Study Genomics and Health
Geneticist Charles Rotimi to Lead Research on Diseases Affecting
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) today announced the establishment
of the NIH Intramural Center for Genomics and Health Disparities
(NICGHD), a new venue for research about the way populations are
impacted by diseases, including obesity, diabetes and hypertension.
NICGHD will employ a genomics approach, collecting and analyzing
genetic, clinical, lifestyle and socio-economic data to study a
range of clinical conditions that have puzzled and troubled public
health experts for decades. The trans-NIH center will be directed
by internationally renowned genetic epidemiologist Charles N. Rotimi,
Ph.D., former director of the National Human Genome Center at Howard
"This new center will be an NIH resource to help move research
related to the complex factors underlying health disparities into
the 21st century," said NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni,
M.D. "Synergy among the center's genetic and genomic researchers
and disease experts in existing NIH research programs will advance
our understanding of health disparities for the benefit of minority
groups and all Americans."
"The priority of our center will be to understand
how we can use the tools of genomics to address some of the issues
we see with health disparities," Rotimi said. "The availability
of tremendous expertise and the remarkable research infrastructure
at NIH will make our research activities more robust and will allow
us to tackle questions in ways that were not feasible in the past."
Genomic research has established that the genomes of any two individuals
are very similar. However, the subtle genomic differences that
remain contribute to unique biological traits, such as hair and
eye color, as well as to the susceptibility to diseases and individual
responses to drugs. Additional factors contribute to health and
disease, including diet, exercise routines and access to medical
care. Genetic epidemiologists study genetic differences in combination
with environmental factors to assess disease susceptibility and
resistance among individuals and population groups.
NICGHD will be established within the NIH Office of Intramural
Research and administered by the National Human Genome Research
Institute (NHGRI). Additional support for the center will come
from the NIH Office of the Director, the National Institute of
Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and the Center
for Information Technology. The research activities of NICGHD will
take place on the NIH Bethesda campus.
Building upon his previous research, Rotimi will continue efforts
to develop genetic epidemiology models and population-genetics
research projects that provide insights about the interrelationships
of culture, lifestyle, genetics, genomics and health. His research
explores patterns and determinants of common complex diseases that
affect populations both living in Africa today and those that are
part of the African diaspora.
Rotimi, who also has been appointed senior investigator in the
Inherited Disease Research Branch in NHGRI's Division of Intramural
Research, has been extensively involved in a number of genetic
epidemiology projects that are being conducted in several African
countries, China and in the United States. These projects have
included the Africa America Diabetes Mellitus study; the Howard
University Family Study; the Genetics of Obesity in Blacks Study;
the Black Women Health Study; Consent in Genetic Research: An International
Trial; the Engagement of African Communities for the International
HapMap Project; and the Genetic Basis of Podoconiosis, a foot-disfiguring
disease impacting some who work barefoot in volcanic soils. These
efforts have provided him the necessary expertise for assuming
the directorship of NICGHD.
An additional focus of NICGHD will be to provide training opportunities
for students and established scientists from developing countries
and from minority groups in the United States.
Rotimi, who was born in Nigeria, received a B.S. from the University
of Benin, Nigeria and an M.S. from the University of Mississippi
in Oxford, Miss. He went on to earn an M.P.H. and Ph.D. from the
University of Alabama at Birmingham. He is the founding and current
president of the African Society of Human Genetics, whose membership
is interested in using genomic tools to impact health for African
people and the global community.
NHGRI and NIDDK are among the 27 institutes and centers at the
NIH, an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services.
The NHGRI Division of Intramural Research develops and implements
technology to understand, diagnose and treat genomic and genetic
diseases. Additional information about NHGRI can be found at its
Web site, www.genome.gov.
The NIDDK conducts and supports research in diabetes and other
endocrine and metabolic diseases; digestive diseases, nutrition,
and obesity; and kidney, urologic and hematologic diseases. Additional
information about NIDDK can be found at www.niddk.nih.gov.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's
Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and
Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting
and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research,
and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both
common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and
its programs, visit www.nih.gov.