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NIH bankrolls molecular probes for targeted therapy

NIH bankrolls molecular probes for targeted therapy

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) will devote $70 million to accelerate the development of small molecule probes at 9 US centers, including the Burnham Center for Chemical Genomics in La Jolla, California (John Reed, MD, PhD, principal investigator); Johns Hopkins Ion Channel Center in Baltimore (Min Li, PhD); and the University of Kansas Specialized Chemistry Center in Lawrence (Jeffrey Aube, PhD).

The 9 institutions will collectively be called the Molecular Libraries Probe Production Centers Network, a division of the Molecular Libraries and Imaging Initiative launched in 2004 by the NIH. Funds will be handed out over 4 years to increase the pace of development of chemical probes to explore new targets for therapies.

The network will screen a library of more than 300,000 small molecules maintained in the program’s Molecular Libraries Small Molecule Repository, hosted by San Francisco-base Biofocus DPI, a drug discovery research company. Data generated by the screening will be available to the public through PubChem (http://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/).

“This program will help us understand the function of genes identified by the human genome project,” commented Alex A. Adjei, MD, PhD, to Oncology News International. “This understanding should lead to the development of new therapies and diagnostic tools for cancer. In the long term, these studies will greatly enhance our understanding of the genetic abnormalities that lead to the development of many cancers and provide new anticancer treatments,” added Dr. Adjei, who is the Katherine Anne Gioia chair in cancer medicine at Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) will co-administer the network on behalf of NIH.

“This network marks a new era in academic and government research as NIH-funded scientists will have access to the tools for rapidly screening hundreds of thousands of small molecules against many novel biological assays at lower costs than previously possible,” said Elias A. Zerhouni, MD, NIH director. “The information generated by this network will be important to developing a greater understanding of biology and its complexity, while hopefully discovering novel approaches to therapies and prevention, especially for rare or neglected diseases.”

Breaking news:

Elias A. Zerhouni, MD, announced that he will step down this month, after six years as director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The 57-year-old Dr. Zerhouni, who is a radiologist by training, engineered a major reorganization of the $29.5 billion agency with the intention of speeding the translation of basic science into clinical treatments. He also insisted that NIH-funded scientists provide better public access to research results.

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