Suzanne D. Vernon, PhD
A Run for the Money
By Suzanne D. Vernon, PhD
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) is intended to stimulate our economy by creating new jobs, preserving existing jobs and addressing long-neglected challenges. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) received an unprecedented $29 billion through ARRA, most of which is directed to buildings and infrastructure. However, more than $500 million will support medical research grants and training.
At least $200 million was designated for the NIH Challenge Grants in Health and Science Research; this is sufficient to fund about 200 scientifically meritorious applications at $500,000 per year for two years. Another new program called Research and Research Infrastructure “Grand Opportunities” or “GO” fund contains $200 million to support large projects of $500,000 or more each year for two years.
The CFIDS Association partnered with Drs. Sanjay Shukla and Steve Yale of the Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation on a Challenge proposal titled, “Interaction of Genetic Susceptibility Markers and Intestinal Microbiome in Interstitial Cystitis/Painful Bladder Syndrome and Overlapping Clinical Syndromes.” The crux of the proposal is that CFS, chronic urologic pain syndromes, fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome are described by similar symptoms of fatigue and pain because of shared genetic and infectious features. We propose to examine genetic variation in genes important for modulating healthy immune, serotonergic and metabolic responses, as well as to document the ratio of “good” to “bad” gut microbes. Challenge Grant applications will be reviewed in July with earliest start dates for successful grants in September 2009.
In response to the GO announcement, the CFIDS Association recruited several top-notch co-investigators in an attempt to both expand the Association’s CFS Research Network as well as explore the relevance of autoimmunity in CFS. Investigators at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, New York University, Harvard University, University of Washington, University of Chicago and University of Miami will be joining the CFIDS Association on this application. With this team of investigators we propose to measure autoantibodies that are present in serum against several thousand proteins to generate autoantibody repertoires. We hypothesize that these autoantibody repertoires will identify CFS subtypes and may also indicate how CFS was caused (for example, by infection, vaccination, etc). The GO Grants will also be reviewed in July with the earliest start dates for successful applications beginning in September 2009.
The CFIDS Association also submitted an application to the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP). The CDMRP is a peer-reviewed Department of Defense program that funds research on a variety of disease topics important both to the military and U.S. public health. Our application focused on determining if vaccination and natural infection can trigger an autoimmune response that causes and sustains CFS. Joining the CFIDS Association on this application are the Weizmann Institute of Science, University of Alberta, University of Utah Health Sciences Center and Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The funding amount for this award would be $750,000 for three years. Funding decisions will be made by October 2009.
Finally, the Association, in partnership with the Banbury Center of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, was just awarded an R-13 grant from the NIH to host a think-tank type meeting titled, “From Infection to Neurometabolism: A Nexus for CFS.” This meeting will bring together the Association’s funded investigators, several of their collaborators and CFS investigators supported by the NIH. It will serve as a mid-term progress meeting and will expand the network begun under the CFIDS Association’s research program. This is the first NIH grant awarded to support an Association meeting. The application received a very favorable review, largely due to recognition of the need for consensus building and the diversity of research perspectives represented. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory is a renowned nonprofit research institution that has played a pivotal role in the emergence of molecular genetics, the scientific foundation of the contemporary revolution in biology and biotechnology.
The Association is working diligently to expand public support of CFS research by developing innovative multidisciplinary research teams and partnerships capable of meeting these funding agencies’ rigorous standards. We look forward to sharing more news of positive reviews.
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