|NIH “Roadmap” Grants Will Establish Nine Screening Centers in Seven States
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) today announced it is
awarding $88.9 million in grants to nine institutions over three
years to establish a collaborative research network that will use
high-tech screening methods to identify small molecules that can
be used as research tools. Small molecules have great potential
to help scientists in their efforts to learn more about key biological
processes involved in human health and disease.
"This tremendous collaborative effort will accelerate our
understanding of biology and disease mechanisms," said Elias
A. Zerhouni, M.D., NIH Director. "More importantly, it will,
for the first time, enable academic researchers to explore novel
ideas and enable progress on a broad front against human disease."
For example, the broad-based screening effort will eventually enable
researchers to explore the hundreds of thousands of proteins believed
to be encoded by the approximately 25,000 genes in the human genome.
To date, only a few hundred human proteins have been studied in
detail using small molecule probes.
Certain small organic chemical compounds, also referred to as small
molecules, can be valuable tools for understanding the many important
cellular events involved in health and disease, which is key to
identifying possible new targets for diagnosis, treatment and prevention.
To date, most useful small molecules have been found serendipitously.
The molecular libraries screening program is an effort by NIH to
take an efficient, high-throughput approach toward the discovery
of many more useful compounds.
The Molecular Libraries Screening Centers Network is being developed
through the NIH Roadmap for medical research. Specifically, the
network is part of the Roadmap's "New Pathways to Discovery"
initiative, which has set out to advance the understanding of biological
systems and build a better "toolbox" for medical researchers
in the 21st century. The network is funded by all of the institutes
of the NIH and co-administered by the National Institute of Mental
Health (NIMH) and the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI)
on behalf of NIH. The operation of the network will be overseen
by a project team made up of staff from NIH's 27 institutes and
Data generated from the high-throughput assays conducted at the
screening centers will be made available to researchers in both
the public and private sectors through the PubChem database (http://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/),
created and managed by the National Library of Medicine at NIH.
The network's first screening center, the NIH Chemical Genomics
Center (NCGC), was established in June 2004 by the NHGRI's intramural
program to jumpstart the roadmap effort. Another critical component
of the network is the Molecular Libraries Small Molecule Repository,
located in San Francisco at Discovery Partners International, a
drug discovery research firm. The repository houses the collection
of small molecules that will be used for screening by the centers.
Already, the repository has acquired nearly 100,000 compounds that
are being utilized by the NCGC.
"This new Screening Centers Network will be the engine of
discovery in the NIH Roadmap Molecular Libraries initiative,"
said NIMH Director Thomas R. Insel, M.D. "Using the compounds
from the Molecular Libraries Small Molecule Repository and supported
by the informatics capabilities of PubChem, the MLSCN should provide
researchers with many new chemical tools to explore how cells function
at the molecular level."
"This collaborative screening effort will enable academic
and government researchers to contribute in a much more vigorous
way to an understanding of the mechanisms of disease, and even to
the identification of potential targets for new therapies. Central
to this effort are the databases supporting the network, which will
allow us to tie together data from diverse fields of science in
ways not previously brought to bear on important health problems,"
said NHGRI Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.
The nine institutions receiving grants as part of the Molecular
Libraries Screening Centers Network (MLSCN) are:
- Columbia University Medical Center, New York, New York; James
Rothman, Principal Investigator; MLSCN Center at Columbia University
- Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia; Raymond Dingledine, Principal
Investigator; Emory Chemistry-Biology Center in the MLSCN
- Southern Research Institute, Birmingham, Alabama; Gary Piazza,
Principal Investigator; Southern Research Molecular Libraries
Screening Center (SRMLSC)
- The Burnham Institute, La Jolla, California; John Reed, Principal
Investigator; San Diego Chemical Library Screening Center
- The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California; Hugh Rosen,
Principal Investigator; Scripps Research Institute Molecular Screening
- University of New Mexico Albuquerque, Albuquerque, New Mexico;
Larry Sklar, Principal Investigator; New Mexico Molecular Libraries
- University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Scott
Diamond, Principal Investigator; The Penn Center for Molecular
- University of Pittsburgh at Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania;
John Lazo, Principal Investigator; University of Pittsburgh Molecular
Libraries Screening Center
- Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee; C. David Weaver,
Principal Investigator; Vanderbilt Screening Center for GPCRs,
Ion Channels, and Transporters
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) The Nation's
Medical Research Agency is comprised of 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 investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common
and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs,
About the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research
The NIH Roadmap is a series of new initiatives designed to pursue
major opportunities and gaps in biomedical research that no single
NIH institute could tackle alone but which the agency as a whole
can address to make the biggest impact possible on the progress
of medical research and to catalyze changes that will serve to transform
new scientific knowledge into tangible benefits for public health.
Additional information about the NIH Roadmap can be found at its
Web site, www.nihroadmap.nih.gov.
About NIMH and NHGRI
NIMH and NHGRI co-lead the Molecular Libraries Roadmap Initiative
and are among the 27 institutes and centers at NIH. NIMH works to
reduce the burden of mental illness and behavioral disorders through
research on mind, brain, and behavior. Additional information about
NIMH can be found at its Web site, www.nimh.nih.gov. NHGRI supports
the development of resources and technology that will accelerate
genome research and its application to human health. Information
about NHGRI can be found at its Web site, www.genome.gov.