|NHGRI Funds Two Centers of Excellence in Genomic
Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Stanford to
Receive Five-Year Grants
The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), part of
the National Institutes of Health (NIH), today announced grants
expected to total approximately $30 million to establish one, new
Center of Excellence in Genomic Science at the Dana Farber Cancer
Institute (DFCI) and continue its support of the center at Stanford
Begun by NHGRI in 2001, the Centers of Excellence in Genomic Science
program assembles multi-institution, interdisciplinary teams dedicated
to making critical advances in genomic research. The new center
at DFCI in Cambridge, Mass., will receive about $16 million and
the center at Stanford University in Stanford, Calif., will receive
about $14 million.
“Our goal is to foster the development of creative collaborations
that will use genomic tools and technologies to expand our understanding
of human biology,” said NHGRI Director Francis S. Collins, M.D.,
Ph.D. “These new centers will explore some of the most important
questions facing biology today. We look forward to seeing what
exciting findings and innovative approaches arise from their efforts.”
At Stanford the Center for Excellence in Genomic Science led by
David M. Kingsley, Ph.D., will continue work done in the previous
funding period using the stickleback fish as a model to explore
the genomic mechanisms that have led to the diversity in the vertebrate
group of animals. Vertebrates, which include fish, humans and other
organisms with backbones, share many of the same fundamental biological
pathways and gene networks. However, despite these similarities,
considerable differences exist among vertebrate species in size,
shape, body function and behavior.
To build a tool to study the genomic basis for such differences,
the Stanford researchers will crossbreed different strains of stickleback
fish to produce a genome-wide map. This map will be used to help
uncover the genetic mechanisms that underlie the broad range of
traits seen in the fish. Researchers will then search for specific
genetic signatures that may have served as the basis of adaptive
changes in size, shape, body function and behavior in many different
fish populations around the world.
Preliminary data suggest that genetic mechanisms identified as
the basis of adaptive changes in fish may be broadly predictive
of similar mechanisms across a surprisingly large range of animals,
including humans. Consequently, researchers will compare the stickleback
genome to equivalent regions thought to be sites of adaptive change,
also referred to as variation, in the human genome. Ultimately,
the regions of the human genome predicted to play a role in variation
and disease susceptibility will be used to create lines of laboratory
mice that can be used as models for testing those predictions.
At the DFCI, the Center for Excellence in Genomic Science led
by Marc Vidal, Ph.D., will test the hypothesis that both human
genetic variations and pathogens, such as viruses, can influence
cellular networks to cause disease.
The sequencing of the human genome and subsequent production of
a map of common patterns of human genetic variation, known as the
HapMap, have accelerated the discovery of genetic variations associated
with a wide range of human diseases. However, because the function
of genetic variations are mediated by a dynamic network of multiple
gene products and metabolites, researchers still face a daunting
challenge in figuring out how to use this new information to treat
and prevent disease.
Working with viral infections as a model system, the DFCI researchers
will investigate in a comprehensive manner how genetic and environmental
disruptions in complex cellular networks interact to cause disease.
Specifically, the team will analyze network-level disruption and
protein-protein interactions in cells caused by particular viruses
and apply what is learned to genome-wide variation datasets for
related human diseases.
The center’s ultimate goal is to develop general principles for
data integration and network prediction. The knowledge gained will
be used to develop better models to interpret genome-wide genetic
variations in the context of human disease. The DFCI research team
will collaborate closely with researchers from Brigham and Women’s
Hospital and Harvard Medical School, both located in Boston, and
the University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Ind.
Besides carrying out their research missions, Centers for Excellence
in Genomic Science also serve as a focal point for providing education
and training about genomic research opportunities to members of
under-represented minorities. Participants span a wide spectrum
of ages and educational levels, ranging from college undergraduates
to post-doctoral fellows. More information on this program is available
In addition to the Centers of Excellence in Genomic Science at
DFCI and Stanford, other current participants in the program are:
Roger Brent, Ph.D., Molecular Sciences Institute,
Marianne Bronner-Fraser, Ph.D., California Institute
George Church, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School, Boston.
Andrew Feinberg, M.D., Johns Hopkins University
School of Medicine, Baltimore.
This CEGS is co-funded by NHGRI and the National Institute of Mental
Deirdre R. Meldrum, Ph.D., Arizona State University,
Michael P. Snyder, Ph.D., Yale University, New Haven,
Michael Waterman, Ph.D., University of Southern
California, Los Angeles.
For more details about the research being conducted by the centers,
go to http://www.genome.gov/10001771.
NHGRI is one of the 27 institutes and centers at NIH. The NHGRI
Division of Extramural Research supports grants for research and
training and career development at sites nationwide. Additional
information about NHGRI can be found at www.genome.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.