NIH News Release
National Institute of
General Medical Sciences

Tuesday, April 4, 2000
Contact: Alison Davis (NIGMS)
(301) 496-7301

First Awards Made in NIH Effort to Understand How Genes Affect People's Responses to Medicines

Diet, environment, and lifestyle can all influence how a person responds to medicines — but another key factor is genes. The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) and other components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are sponsoring a nationwide research effort to understand how a person's genetic make-up determines the way a medicine works in his or her body, as well as what side effects the person might be prone to developing.

This so-called "pharmacogenetics" research focuses on linking the body's response to medicines with variations in particular genes. Many of these variations are expected to be "single-letter" differences, known as single-nucleotide polymorphisms or "SNPs." However, other genetic variations affecting how a person reacts to a specific medicine could be missing genes, or even extra genes. Through these types of studies, researchers ultimately hope to develop drug dosing into a much more predictive science.

"The outcome of pharmacogenetics research has the potential to improve the health of all Americans, by making the medicines of today and tomorrow safer and more effective for everyone," said Dr. Rochelle Long, a pharmacologist at NIGMS who spearheaded the pharmacogenetics initiative.

The trans-NIH effort is designed to forge an interactive research network of investigators who will store data in a shared information library freely accessible to the scientific community. To protect participants' privacy, names and other identifying information will not be stored in this library.

In addition to NIGMS, the other NIH components funding the pharmacogenetics research network awards are the National Cancer Institute (NCI); the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI); the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI); the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS); and the National Library of Medicine (NLM).

Nine awards, totaling $12.8 million for the first year of funding, have been made to:

NIH has announced its intent to solicit applications for the next round of pharmacogenetics research network awards. Applicants who devise the best plans for conducting pharmacogenetics research that will complement existing studies will join the network, and will contribute to the PharmGKB information library.

NIGMS funds research and research training in the basic biomedical sciences, including pharmacology, cell and molecular biology, and genetics. This support enables scientists at universities, medical schools, and research institutions throughout the country to expand knowledge about the fundamental life processes that underlie human health and disease.

Additional Resources

To arrange an interview with Dr. Rochelle Long, please contact Alison Davis at 301/496-7301.