Thursday, November 19, 2009

NIGMS ‘Challenge’ Areas Get Millions in Recovery Act Funds

The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), part of the National Institutes of Health, has invested $16.4 million of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) funds to jump-start a range of research projects that address critical gaps in the basic biomedical and behavioral sciences.

The new two-year awards, which are called Challenge Grants, focus on overcoming specific scientific and technological challenges in areas of interest to NIGMS. These include stem cells, molecular imaging, synthetic biology, drug discovery, green chemistry, behavioral research and research training.

The Recovery Act awards support 19 projects in 12 states, enabling scientists to explore important research questions while stimulating their local economies through job creation, training and purchasing of new equipment.

"The basic research supported by NIGMS lays a foundation for disease diagnosis, treatment and prevention," said NIGMS Director Jeremy M. Berg, Ph.D. "These Challenge Grants, made possible by the Recovery Act, enable us to capitalize on scientific opportunities in a range of our mission areas by speeding progress toward new tools, methods and knowledge."

The NIGMS Challenge Grants will enable, for example:

  • James W. Thomas of Emory University in Atlanta ($852,500) to develop a model organism — the prairie vole — for studying the biological and environmental underpinnings of a wide range of human social behaviors, including alcoholism, autism and parental bonding.
  • Virginia W. Cornish of Columbia University in New York City ($840,710) to develop very bright fluorescent chemical tags that researchers can easily use to image single molecules in cells and explore complex molecular interactions.
  • Shannon S. Stahl of the University of Wisconsin-Madison ($747,166) to use innovative approaches in chemistry and engineering to enable more environmentally friendly methods for developing and producing pharmaceuticals.

Other NIGMS Challenge Grant projects include:

Hierarchical Spatial Process Models for Estimating and Predicting Health Effects, $610,295
Sudipto Banerjee, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, Minneapolis

Novel Approaches to Structure/Function Analyses of Heparan Sulfate in Vivo, $844,027
Hannes Erich Buelow, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York City

An Assessment of Multimodal Physics Lab Intervention Efficacy in STEM Education, $809,695
Kwan H. Cheng and Beth Thacker, Texas Tech University, Lubbock

Neurogenomics of Social Behavior: Songbird Models, $979,180
David F. Clayton, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Capture of Ubiquitin Conjugation and Deconjugation Enzyme Substrates, $674,966
Robert Cohen, Colorado State University, Fort Collins

Nuclear Organization in Stem and Differentiated Cells, $775,000
Victor G. Corces, Emory University, Atlanta

Riboswitch Design Principles: Interplay Between Switching, Ligand Binding and Folding, $938,041
Scott Patrick Hennelly and Kevin Y. Sanbonmatsu, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, N.M.

Enzyme-Mediated Synthesis of Functionalized Terpene Structures, $1,000,000
Jay D. Keasling, University of California, Berkeley

Sub-Wavelength Imaging of Intracellular Metal Ions, $860,237
Joseph R. Lakowicz, University of Maryland, Baltimore

Biochemical Studies of Drosophila RNA-Induced Silencing Complex, $767,805
Qinghua Liu, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas

Structure-Function Studies of Modular Human Mediator Coactivator Complex, $943,256
Robert G. Roeder, Rockefeller University, New York City

Suspended Bilayers: New Technology to Study the Dynamics of Membrane Structure and Function, $969,272 
James E. Rothman, Yale University, New Haven, Conn.

Reading the Histone Code: The Nanoscale Morphology of Epigenomic Histone Modifications, $911,875
M. Mitchell Smith, University of Virginia, Charlottesville

Molecular Platforms for the Development of Intelligent Therapeutics Targeted to Diseased Cells, $999,892
Christina D. Smolke, Stanford University, Stanford, Calif.

A New Paradigm for Biomolecular Simulations, $903,718 Donald G. Truhlar and Jiali Gao, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, Minneapolis

Posttranscriptional Regulation of Gene Expression in Eukaryotes, $991,518
Karsten Weis, University of California, Berkeley

In addition to these awards, the NIH Office of the Director is supporting 15 Challenge Grants closely aligned with the NIGMS mission.

For project details, go to, check the box that says "Show only projects supported by NIH Recovery Act funds" and enter the name of the scientist in the Principal Investigator field.

NIGMS is a part of NIH that supports basic research to increase our understanding of life processes and lay the foundation for advances in disease diagnosis, treatment and prevention. For more information on the Institute's research and training programs, see

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