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National Institute of
General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, October 1, 2003


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Alison Davis, NIGMS
(301) 854-0633

NIGMS Chemistry Center Grants to Expand Drug Discovery Toolkit

Bethesda, Maryland — To invigorate the drug development pipeline and to broaden opportunities and resources for biomedical research, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) announces support for two new Centers of Excellence in Chemical Methodologies and Library Development (CMLD).

NIGMS is awarding $5.6 million for the first year of funding for the 5-year CMLD awards, which over their lifetimes are expected to total more than $19 million. The new centers will join two existing centers that were funded in October 2002.

Better medicines will likely be the end result of this continued, aggressive investment by NIGMS to expand the experimental toolkit for chemists and biologists. Combined with new techniques for high-throughput testing, chemical libraries are a mainstay of drug discovery. Well-crafted libraries, consisting of collections of anywhere from a few compounds to millions of them, can help scientists sort quickly through a haystack of possibilities to find the shining needle that may be developed into a lifesaving drug.

"Together with an array of recent advances in biomedicine, the broad availability of diverse chemical libraries could help launch a new and exciting era of pre-clinical disease detection and personalized and targeted medicines," said Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., director of the National Institutes of Health. "Improvements in manipulating the chemistry of small molecules will be an important step toward understanding the human body as a complex system of interacting parts."

Enhancing the quality of chemical libraries is a high priority for medical research. The topic is a key component of the National Institutes of Health Roadmap process designed to chart a rapid and efficient course to improving America's health.

In addition to advancing drug discovery, tailored libraries will also answer fundamental questions about how organisms function in both health and disease. A central goal of the CMLD program is to invite biologists to appreciate the value of chemical libraries.

"Better chemical libraries will give chemists and biologists alike unprecedented opportunities," said Judith H. Greenberg, Ph.D., acting director of NIGMS. "We expect that NIGMS' investment in the development of new and innovative chemical methods will continue to fertilize biomedical research by making it easier for biologists to use these powerful tools on a routine basis."

Each NIGMS center is a collaborative effort involving a team of researchers. The two new center awards were made to:

  • University of Kansas in Lawrence (Jeffrey Aubé, Ph.D., principal investigator) — $2.6 million for the first year of funding to assemble a consortium of scientists in Kansas and Iowa to develop new methods to design certain types of scaffolds, the chemical backbones that serve as an architectural base upon which molecules within a particular library are built.

  • Harvard Medical School in Boston, Mass. (Stuart Schreiber, Ph.D., principal investigator) — $3 million for the first year of funding to craft powerful new chemical tools for biological screening. The researchers plan to expand the repertoire of chemical reactions currently available for generating diverse libraries, as well as to develop new approaches for planning and automating chemical reaction procedures.

An important component of the NIGMS CMLD initiative is making newly developed methods and resources available to other scientists. As evidence, each center must develop a plan for outreach to the biology research community.

A news release on the first CMLD awards made under this program is posted at: http://www.nigms.nih.gov/news/releases/chemical_libraries.html.

For information about the new CMLD awards, contact Alison Davis in the NIGMS Office of Communications and Public Liaison at (301) 854-0633 to speak with NIGMS acting director Judith H. Greenberg, Ph.D., or NIGMS chemist and CMLD program director John Schwab, Ph.D.

NIGMS is one of the 27 components of the National Institutes of Health, the premier federal agency for biomedical research. More information on NIGMS can be found at http://www.nigms.nih.gov.


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