News Release

Monday, October 5, 2015

NIH Common Fund launches four programs designed to take aim at gaps in biomedical research

New awards support emerging issues in cutting-edge biomedical research fields.

The NIH Common Fund awarded over $54 million in fiscal year 2015 to launch projects in four broad scientific areas selected through a stringent strategic planning process: the Glycoscience Program, the 4D Nucleome Program, the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Program, and the Science of Behavior Change Program. The Common Fund planning process identifies major challenges that impede progress in research as well as emerging areas of science that promise to change the way we think about health and disease or the way we approach prevention or treatment. Common Fund programs that emerge are goal-driven, with deliverables expected within a five to 10 year period. The 2015 awards represented first-year funding of a multiyear program.

“With this support, we hope to capitalize on recent scientific advances to create resources and opportunities that will transform and accelerate these areas of research.”

James M. Anderson, M.D., Ph.D.
Director, Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives

“These awards aim to provide catalytic support to areas of research that no one institute or center at NIH would be able to address on its own” 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. “With this support, we hope to capitalize on recent scientific advances to create resources and opportunities that will transform and accelerate these areas of research.”

The Glycoscience Program is addressing the difficulty of studying proteins and lipids that have complex sugars attached, a problem that stymies researchers in virtually every arena of biomedical research. These carbohydrate modifications play important roles in numerous disease processes, but they are exceedingly difficult to study. This program is awarding approximately $10 million to 23 research teams to make the study of carbohydrate chemistry and biology more accessible to the broad research community by developing tools and methods that are simple, reliable, and easy-to-use for non-specialists. The goal of the Glycoscience Program is to simplify carbohydrate research by developing simple methods and technologies for synthesizing carbohydrates, creating accesible tools for studying carbohydrates and their interaction partners, and fostering the integration and analysis of the information gained with the genomic and proteomic knowledge base. The program is led by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences and the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), and the awards are administered by several institutes and centers.

The 4D Nucleome Program is leveraging recent technological advances to transform the way we  understand gene regulation. In recent years, it has become clear that the DNA and DNA associated proteins found in each cell nucleus are precisely organized in three dimensions and this organization changes over time – the fourth dimension. However, the functional consequences of this organization on gene expression, cellular function, development, and disease are unknown. The 4D Nucleome Program is supporting its first set of 29 awards, in which researchers will work together as a consortium to investigate nuclear organization in space and time, with a focus on investment in future technology development. Totaling approximately $25 million, this program includes support for an interdisciplinary consortium to explore nuclear organization and function; development of new chemical, biochemical, and imaging tools; studies of structural and functional subregions within the nucleus; an organizational hub to facilitate collaboration and resource sharing; and a data center to coordinate and integrate data generated by the 4D Nucleome investigators. These awards are being administered by the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

The Gabriella Miller Kids First Pediatric Research Program will develop a data resource for the pediatric research community of clinical and genetic sequence data that will allow scientists to identify genetic pathways that underlie structural birth defects and childhood cancer. Increased understanding of the underlying genetics of these conditions would be a first step towards potentially developing prevention, early detection, and therapeutic interventions. DNA sequencing centers at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, and Washington University, St. Louis, each received $6.3 million to generate genetic sequence data from structural birth defects and childhood cancer research cohorts. In future years, the program plans to support additional analyses and data coordination efforts which will enable molecular networks that may link apparently disparate conditions to be identified. The sequencing center grants are managed by the National Human Genome Research Institute.

The Science of Behavior Change Program aims to implement a mechanism-focused, experimental medicine approach to behavior change research. Unhealthy behaviors, including lack of adherence to medical regimens, account for approximately 40 percent of premature deaths in the United States. The Science of Behavior Change Research Network will bring together teams of basic and clinical scientists to implement an experimental approach to behavior change, which will involve: identifying behavior change targets common across multiple diseases, developing assays to measure target engagement, testing interventions for efficacy, and disseminating validated assays and tools to researchers and clinicians. The network will receive approximately $7 million to fund a total of nine awards that are being administered by the National Institute on Aging, NIDA, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Development, NHLBI, NIDDK, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, the National Institute of Nursing Research, and NIDCR.

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

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