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Nine Life Science Centers to receive $280 Million in NIH Funding

September 10, 2008

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) have announced a four-year plan to invest approximately $70 million a year in a nationwide network of life science research centers. The Molecular Libraries Probe Production Centers Network will employ high-tech screening methods to identify molecules that can be used as probes to explore the functions of cells. This research is intended to help increase the pace of discovery in the field of chemical probes, which have become a key resource in fighting disease.

The network is the second phase of the Molecular Libraries and Imaging Initiative and is part of NIH's Roadmap for Medical Research program. The Roadmap program was launched in 2004 to support initiatives that address fundamental gaps in U.S. medical research. Funding for the network will be made available through the roadmap initiative for the initial four years, and then transition to other funding sources in years five and six.

The nine associated research centers will screen a library of more than 300,000 small molecules to evaluate their potential as chemical probes. Network data will be available to the public through NIH's National Library of Medicine.

A majority of the funding will support four centers that will undertake research across the spectrum of molecular probe studies. These comprehensive centers include:

  • The Burnham Center for Chemical Genomics, La Jolla, CA
  • Broad Institute Comprehensive Screening Center, Cambridge, MA
  • National Institutes of Health Chemical Genomics Center, Bethesda, MD
  • The Comprehensive Center for Chemical Probe Discovery and Optimization at Scripps, La Jolla, CA.

Two of the comprehensive centers, the Burnham Center and the Scripps Research Institute, are based in the San Diego metro area, with additional campuses in Florida. These two centers alone account for almost $180 million of the NIH grants. The Burnham Center plans to use its $98 million grant to hire an additional 30 staffers and purchase more than $44 million in new equipment according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The remainder of the funding has been awarded to five centers that will specialize in either screening or probe chemistry research. These include:

  • Johns Hopkins Ion Channel Center, Baltimore, MD
  • Southern Research Specialized Biocontainment Screening Center, Birmingham, AL
  • University of New Mexico Center for Molecular Discovery, Albuquerque, NM
  • University of Kansas Specialized Chemistry Center, Lawrence, KS
  • The Vanderbilt Specialized Chemistry Center for Accelerated Probe Development, Nashville, TN.

For more information about the Molecular Libraries Probe Production Centers Network, visit: http://www.nih.gov/news/health/sep2008/nimh-02.htm