First awards made in NIH effort to understand how genes affect people's responses to medicines

Diet, environment, and lifestyle can all influence how a person responds to medicines--but another key factor is genes. The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) and other components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are sponsoring a nationwide research effort to understand how a person's genetic make-up determines the way a medicine works in his or her body, as well as what side effects the person might be prone to developing.

This so-called "pharmacogenetics" research focuses on linking the body's response to medicines with variations in particular genes. Many of these variations are expected to be "single-letter" differences, known as single-nucleotide polymorphisms or "SNPs." However, other genetic variations affecting how a person reacts to a specific medicine could be missing genes, or even extra genes. Through these types of studies, researchers ultimately hope to develop drug dosing into a much more predictive science.

"The outcome of pharmacogenetics research has the potential to improve the health of all Americans, by making the medicines of today and tomorrow safer and more effective for everyone," said Dr. Rochelle Long, a pharmacologist at NIGMS who spearheaded the pharmacogenetics initiative.

The trans-NIH effort is designed to forge an interactive research network of investigators who will store data in a shared information library freely accessible to the scientific community. To protect participants' privacy, names and other identifying information will not be stored in this library.

In addition to NIGMS, the other NIH components funding the pharmacogenetics research network awards are the National Cancer Institute (NCI); the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI); the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI); the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS); and the National Library of Medicine (NLM).

Nine awards, totaling $12.8 million for the first

Contact: Alison Davis
NIH/National Institute of General Medical Sciences

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