|NIH Announces Funding for New Epigenomics Initiative
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announces funding for
the new NIH Roadmap Epigenomics Program. Epigenetic processes control
normal growth and development, and epigenomics is a study of epigenetic
processes at a genome-wide scale. The NIH will invest more than
$190 million over the next five years to accelerate this emerging
field of biomedical research. The first grants will total approximately
$18 million in 2008.
The overall hypothesis of the NIH Roadmap Epigenomics Program
is that the origins of health and susceptibility to disease are,
in part, the result of epigenetic regulation of the genetic blueprint.
Researchers believe that understanding how and when epigenetic
processes control genes during different stages of development
and throughout life will lead to more effective ways to prevent
and treat disease. Epigenetic processes, such as modifications
to DNA-associated proteins called histones, control genetic activity
by changing the three-dimensional structure of chromosomes. This
can affect gene expression as profoundly as changes in the DNA
"Epigenomics-based research is now a central issue in biology.
We will build upon our new knowledge of the human genome and move
towards a deeper understanding of how DNA information is dynamically
regulated through DNA histone modifications as well as the emerging
role of micro RNAs and other factors," said NIH Director Elias
A. Zerhouni, M.D. "The grants now funded through this program will
provide reference data that the entire community can use to understand
epigenetic regulation and how it affects health and disease."
Diet and exposure to environmental chemicals throughout all stages
of human development, among other factors, can cause epigenetic
changes that may turn on or turn off certain genes. Changes in
the regulation of genes could make people more or less susceptible
to developing a disease later in life. (See scientific illustration
of how epigenetic mechanisms can affect health at http://nihroadmap.nih.gov/epigenomics/epigeneticmechanisms.asp.)
"The Epigenome Program promises to uncover the fundamental processes
that make a liver cell different from a muscle cell or a brain
cell. Understanding these processes has far-reaching implications,
from reprogramming of adult cells to treat disease to learning
how environmental exposures during pregnancy increase a child’s
risk of developing chronic diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular
disease,"" said Griffin P. Rodgers, M.D., director of the National
Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
The Epigenomics Program is a trans-NIH effort led by several NIH
institutes including the National Institute of Environmental Health
Sciences, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute
on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, the National Institute
of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the National Institute
of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and the National Center for
Biotechnology Information of the National Library of Medicine.
Efforts of these Institutes are coordinated by the Office of Portfolio
Analysis and Strategic Initiatives as part of the NIH Roadmap.
"The epigenetic regulation of gene expression is an emerging frontier
in understanding human health and disease. The information generated
by this Roadmap program will be an invaluable resource for scientists
studying normal biological processes, as well as a wide variety
of diseases, including cancer, autoimmune diseases, developmental
disorders, and neurological diseases such as autism," said Samuel
Wilson, M.D., acting director of the National Institute of Environmental
The awards announced today focus on four areas: epigenome mapping
centers; epigenomics data analysis and coordination; technology
development in epigenetics, and the discovery of novel epigenetic
marks in mammalian cells.
NIH Roadmap for Medical Research Epigenomic Program Awards Reference
Epigenome Mapping Centers
These centers will map the epigenomes of a variety of human cells
to serve as a reference that can be built upon to enhance understanding
of disease mechanisms, provide additional insights into genetic
susceptibility of disease, and identify potential therapeutic targets.
The four centers receiving awards are:
Epigenomics Data Analysis and Coordination Center
- Production Sequencing of Reference Human Epigenomes led by
Bradley E. Bernstein, M.D., Ph.D., at the Broad Institute/Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, and Alexander Meissner, Ph.D., at the
Broad Institute/Harvard University, both in Cambridge, Mass.
- The San Diego Epigenome Center led by Bing Ren, Ph.D., at the
Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, San Diego, Calif.
- Integrated Epigenetic Maps of Human Embryonic and Adult Cells
led by Joseph F. Costello, Ph.D., at the University of California,
San Francisco, and Marco Antonio Marra, Ph.D., at the British
Columbia Cancer Agency, Vancouver, British Columbia.
- Northwest Reference Epigenome Mapping Center led by John A.
Stamatoyannopoulos, M.D., at the University of Washington, Seattle,
The data analysis and coordination center will provide an informatics
and analysis resource to integrate all components and provide the
infrastructure for the generation of the reference epigenome maps.
The center will be led by Aleksandar Milosavljevic, Ph.D., and
Arthur Beaudet, M.D., at the Baylor College of Medicine, Houston,
Technology Development in Epigenetics
These awards will support the development of innovative technologies
that have the potential to transform the way that epigenomics research
can be performed in the future. The principal investigators receiving
technology development grants are the following:
Discovery of Novel Epigenetic Marks
- Mark T. Bedford, Ph.D., University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer
Center, Houston, Texas and Or P. Gozani,
M.D., Ph.D., Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif.
- Harold G. Craighead, Ph.D., and Paul D. Soloway, Ph.D., Cornell
University, Ithaca, N.Y.
- Howard C. Hang, Ph.D., Rockefeller University, New York, N.Y.
- Steven Henikoff, Ph.D., Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center,
- Shohei Koide, Ph.D., University of Chicago.
- Rihe Liu, Ph.D., University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill,
- Robi D. Mitra, Ph.D., Washington University, St. Louis, Mo.
- Huidong Shi, Ph.D., University of Missouri-Columbia, Mo. and
Kun Zhang, Ph.D., University of California, San Diego.
- Alan Jackson, Tackett, Ph.D., University of Arkansas for Medical
Sciences, Little Rock, and Sean D. Taverna, Ph.D., Johns Hopkins
University, Baltimore, Md.
These awards aim to determine whether novel genome-wide regulating
factors exist and whether such factors may be specific to a given
cell type. The following principal investigators are receiving
- Xian Chen, Ph.D. and Brian D. Strahl, Ph.D., University of
North Carolina, Chapel Hill, N.C.
- Xiaodong Cheng, Ph.D., Emory University, Atlanta.
- Patrick A. Grant, Ph.D., University of Virginia, Charlottesville,
- Richard Alan Katz, Ph.D., Institute for Cancer Research, Philadelphia.
- Marjorie A. Oettinger, Ph.D., Massachusetts General Hospital,
- Alexi V. Tulin, Ph.D., and Kenneth S. Zaret, Ph.D., Institute
for Cancer Research, Philadelphia. Peter E. Warburton, Ph.D.,
Mount Sinai School of Medicine of New York University, New York
- Yingming Zhao, Ph.D., University of Texas Southwestern Medical
Center at Dallas.
For complete descriptions please visit: http://nihroadmap.nih.gov/epigenomics/fundedresearch.asp.
Additional information about the NIH Roadmap Epigenomics Program
is available at http://nihroadmap.nih.gov/epigenomics.
The NIH Roadmap for Medical Research, launched in 2004, is a series
of initiatives designed to address fundamental knowledge gaps,
develop transformative tools and technologies, and/or foster innovative
approaches to complex problems. Funded through the NIH Common Fund,
these programs cut across the missions of individual NIH Institutes
and Centers (ICs) and are intended to accelerate the translation
of research to improvements in public health. The Office of Portfolio
Analysis and Strategic Initiatives (OPASI), in collaboration with
all NIH ICs, oversees programs funded by the Common Fund. Additional
information about the NIH Roadmap and Common Fund can be found
at http://nihroadmap.nih.gov. Additional information about OPASI
can be found at http://opasi.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.