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ARRA Investments in Basic Research Resources and Methods

Public Health Burden
Basic research is a major force driving progress across the biomedical and behavioral sciences and is paramount in uncovering the fundamental principles of biology, wellness, disease, and public health. Investments in basic biomedical research make it possible to understand the causes of disease onset and progression, design preventative interventions, develop better diagnostic tests, and discover new treatments and cures.

Research Resources
NIH not only supports research to understand the physiology and pathophysiology of biological systems but also supports the development and distribution of the methodologies and tools that make such research possible. Resources such as databases, catalogs, and libraries assist in the proper communication and dissemination of scientific information. Several funded ARRA projects will not only generate critical investigative knowledge, but will also establish an accessible exchange resource for scientists and the public.
  • A wide variety of plants produce compounds which have been used to develop clinically important drugs such as taxol, vincristine, and morphine. Unfortunately, how plants produce these compounds remains poorly understood. One ARRA grant supports the development of searchable and downloadable databases containing genetic and molecular information about widely used medicinal plant species. This will provide the research community with data which is expected to accelerate the development of new pharmaceuticals from plant compounds.1
  • Another award supports the creation of a publicly accessible database of images, videos, and animations of cells from a variety of organisms. The images depict cellular events, processes and structures, providing primary data for scientists and clinicians, as well as teachers, students and the general public, attempting to understand human cell biology. Because a comprehensive Cell Image Library does not currently exist, the project will have a significant impact on biomedical research. By visualizing the structure and dynamic behavior of a broad range of cells, scientists and clinicians will be better able to understand the nature of specific cells and cellular processes, both normal and abnormal, leading to new discoveries about diseases and drug targets in the future.2
  • Nanomedicine refers to highly specific medical intervention at the molecular scale for curing disease or repairing damaged tissues, such as bone, muscle, or nerve. In order to develop the microscopic biomechanical devices that will deliver such interventions, it’s important to know how nanoparticles (NPs) move in and around the cell. One grant will investigate the cellular movement of different classes of NPs. The expected outcome of this project is to create a reference table that guides the future development of NP drug delivery systems for rapid expansion of biomedical applications, including cancer therapy, cardiovascular imaging, and gene therapy.3
  • Using high-throughput approaches for genotyping, immunophenotyping and gene expression analysis, the awarded project will examine the basis for the control of gene expression in human immune cells and how it is influenced by natural genetic variation or aging. These results will provide an invaluable benchmark for the interpretation of genetic and immunological studies. All data and interpretations will be made publicly available by using the existing web architectures of the ImmGen project, of the Broad Institute, and of international repositories.4
Several projects which confront previous limitations in science and test theories/hypotheses through the development of improved methodologies have received ARRA awards.
  • One grant aims to accelerate the discovery of how certain gene families function in bacterial genomes.  These genes can help us understand antibiotic resistance, provide new drug targets or improve our understanding of microbial cells found in the human body.  Specifically, the project supports a consortium of experimental and computational biologists, about 40 teams across the U.S., which will collaborate directly to test bacterial genes.  This project will be important in generating fundamental knowledge about infectious disease research and combating antibiotic resistance.5
  • A funded partnership between D.E. Shaw Research (DESRES) and the National Resource for Biomedical Supercomputing (NRBSC) at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC) will enable advances in Molecular Dynamics (MD) research. DESRES has recently developed new supercomputing technology that can accelerate MD simulations by about 100-fold. The project will enable advances in modeling and simulation of molecular structure and function (Molecular Dynamics), and may also usher in a new era of specialized computers developed for biomedical modeling and simulation. Such dramatic acceleration may literally transform the way that scientists visualize and predict important chemical interactions that underlie health and disease.6
  • Stable isotope tracer methodology enables the tracking of a substance through a metabolic pathway-- understood as a series of chemical reactions occurring within a cell. The results of such studies have accurately predicted long-term outcomes of nutritional therapies. The aims of this project are to provide analytical support for research grants using the methodology and to develop new methods to support studies of metabolic processes.7

  1. 5RC2GM092521-02 -- Advancing Drug Development from Medicinal Plants using Transcriptomics and Metabo -- Chappell, Joe Dellapenna, D; O’Connor S E (KY)
  2. 1RC2GM092708-01 -- The Cell: An Image Library -- Kane, Caroline M (MD)
  3. 1RC2GM092599-01 -- Subcellular localization of nanoparticles -- Ferrari, Mauro et al (TX)
  4. 1RC2GM093080-01 -- Gene Expression and Regulatory Networks in Human Leukocytes -- Benoist, Christopher O; Mathis Diana J (MA)
  5. 1RC2GM092602-01 -- SciBay: A New Methodology for Scientific Collaboration and Gene Function Determi -- Kasif, Simon R; Richard, J (MA)
  6. 1RC2GM093307-01 -- Innovative Supercomputing for Breakthrough Molecular -- Stiles, Joel R (PA)
  7. 1RC2GM092277-01 -- Stable Isotope Analytical Core for Studies in Human Metabolism-- Wolfe, Robert R (AR)

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