The National Institutes of Health will invest $14.3 million this year, potentially investing more than $51.4 million over five years, to accelerate an emerging field of biomedical research known as metabolomics. Metabolomics is the study of small molecules called metabolites, found within cells and biological systems. Metabolites are produced or consumed in the chemical reactions that take place in the body to sustain life. The awards are supported by the NIH Common Fund.
The sum of all metabolites at any given moment — the metabolome — is a form of chemical readout of the state of health of the cell or body, and provides a wealth of information about nutrition, infection, health, and disease status. Metabolomics technologies have the potential to measure hundreds to thousands of unique metabolites, which can change as the result of disease, environmental exposures, or nutrition. In a clinical setting, metabolomics technologies can be powerful tools for diagnosis and disease follow-up. In basic research, these technologies will transform the ability of investigators to define the mechanisms underlying disease and to develop new strategies for treatment.
The NIH Common Fund is taking a comprehensive approach to increasing the research capacity in metabolomics by funding a variety of initiatives in this area, including training, technology development, standards synthesis, and data sharing capability for this new field.
"We are excited about the potential advances in technology that will enable metabolomics analysis to be conducted in basic and clinical settings, resulting in the discovery of new diagnostic tools and yielding important clues about disease mechanisms. The new cross-cutting metabolomics initiatives will allow for better data sharing and coordination of metabolomics efforts both nationally and internationally," said James M. Anderson, M.D., Ph.D., director of the NIH Division of Program Coordination, Planning and Strategic Initiatives, which oversees trans-NIH program areas, including those supported through the NIH Common Fund.
Three Regional Comprehensive Metabolomics Resource Cores have been awarded from the first round of applications, with the potential to award 2-3 additional at a later date. NIH will invest over $7 million this year in the first three centers, with plans to invest over $28 million over five years. The Regional Comprehensive Metabolomics Resource Cores will increase the national capacity to provide metabolomics profiling and data analysis services to investigators.
The University of Michigan's resource core is a fully integrated program that will provide researchers nationwide with the expertise and infrastructure for metabolomics in addition to training opportunities. The principal investigator of the grant is Dr. Charles Burant who is experienced in metabolomics, diabetes, and obesity research. He is assisted by Dr. Stephen Brown as a program coordinator on day-to-day operations.
University of California, Davis's resource core will serve clinical and biomedical researchers across the West Coast, with access to cutting-edge tools, collaborations and interpretation of data. The leader of this effort is Dr. Oliver Fiehn, who is experienced in metabolomics technologies and databases. He is assisted by Dr. William Wikoff as program coordinator.
The third award goes to Research Triangle Institute in Research Triangle Park, N.C., which is positioned as a leader of regional metabolomics center and offers a comprehensive range of services and collaborative opportunities for metabolomics technologies. The principal investigator of the grant is Dr. Susan Sumner, who has extensive experience and expertise in metabolomics technologies. She is assisted by Dr. Jason Burgess as program coordinator.
In addition to these three comprehensive metabolomics cores awards, a data repository and Coordination Center (DRCC) is also being awarded to the University of California, San Diego. NIH will invest $2 million this year in DRCC and potentially invest $6 million over five years. The DRCC will provide necessary organization and present all data from the cores and other metabolomics efforts to the biomedical research community. The DRCC functions as a coordinating hub so that the awardees can function as a consortium. Dr. Shankar Subramaniam, who has extensive experience in integration of omics data and has experience coordinating other large scale projects, leads the effort at UCSD. All awardees operate as cooperative agreements with NIH and collectively function as a consortium and lead collaborative activities related to metabolomics.
The NIH Common Fund is also supporting efforts in the following areas of metabolomics research and training.