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Tuesday, September 23, 2014
New supplemental awards apply sex and gender lens to NIH-funded research
Investment sets the stage for a transformative shift in science.
The National Institutes of Health has invested $10.1 million in supplemental funding to bolster the research of 82 grantees to explore the effects of sex in preclinical and clinical studies.
This investment encourages researchers to study females and males, and is a catalyst for considering sex as a fundamental variable in research. The current overreliance on male subjects in preclinical research can obscure key findings related to sex that could guide later human studies. This progressive approach will result in greater awareness of the need to study both sexes, demonstrate how research can incorporate sex, and reinforce the value of taking it into account as these studies yield results.
“This funding strategy demonstrates our commitment to moving the needle toward better health for all Americans, while helping grow our knowledge base for both sexes and building research infrastructure to aid future studies,” said Janine Austin Clayton, M.D., NIH associate director for women’s health research. “The scientists receiving these awards have approached their research questions with fresh thinking, and are looking for innovation and discovery through a new lens.”
“The scientists receiving these awards have approached their research questions with fresh thinking, and are looking for innovation and discovery through a new lens.”
The projects span a wide array of science, including basic immunology, cardiovascular physiology, neural circuitry, and behavioral health. The projects will contribute to the body of sex-based knowledge, informing the understanding of health by adding one of the following elements to the original project:
- Addition of animals, tissues, or cells of the opposite sex to allow sex-based comparisons
- Addition of more subjects of either sex to a sample that already includes males and females to allow analysis for a sex/gender difference
- Analysis of existing datasets containing information from males and females
NIH launched the supplement program in fiscal year 2013 under leadership from the Office of Research on Women’s Health, funding close to 50 supplements at $4.6 million total. Most institutes and centers at NIH have funded supplements since the program began.
The new awards include 18 supplements to existing grants from the NIH Common Fund, which identifies and funds areas of biomedical science to create new fields of research and to develop large-scale public resources that benefit the research community. In keeping with the trans-NIH scope of the Common Fund, knowledge gained from these supplements is expected to affect research across a variety of scientific disciplines. This year’s investment brings total support for the program to $14.7 million.
“By making strategic investments that incorporate sex into existing funded studies, we are paving the way for researchers to better understand when sex matters in their research,” said James M. Anderson, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives, which oversees the NIH Common Fund.
These awards are the latest round of funding in a program described in a May 2014 Nature commentary by Clayton and NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. This commentary informed NIH grantees and other stakeholders of the agency’s intent to develop policies that will require applicants to address the influence of sex in the design and analysis of biomedical research with animals and cells. These activities are beginning to roll out this fall. Earlier this month, NIH began the first phase of policy development by soliciting feedback from researchers and stakeholders with a Request for Information.
For more information about the 2014 ORWH administrative supplements, visit http://orwh.od.nih.gov/research/fundedresearch-admin-supp.asp.
About the Office of Research on Women’s Health: The NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH) promotes research that considers sex and gender to provide critical insights essential to understanding women’s health. ORWH also works to ensure that NIH clinical research takes sex/gender and race/ethnicity into account across the lifespan. ORWH establishes the NIH research agenda for women’s health, co-funds research in partnership with NIH Institutes and Centers, and advances women in biomedical careers and women’s health researchers. For more information about ORWH, visit http://www.nih.gov/women.
About the Common Fund: The NIH Common Fund encourages collaboration and supports a series of exceptionally high-impact, trans-NIH programs. Common Fund programs are designed to pursue major opportunities and gaps in biomedical research that no single NIH Institute could tackle alone, but that the agency as a whole can address to make the biggest impact possible on the progress of medical research. Additional information about the NIH Common Fund can be found at http://commonfund.nih.gov.
About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): 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. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.
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