NIH Expands Network Focused On How Genes Affect Drug Responses

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The National Institutes of Health plans to spend $161.3 million over the next five years to expand the Pharmacogenomics Research Network (PGRN), a nationwide collaborative of scientists focused on understanding how genes affect a person’s response to medicines.

“Thanks to breakthroughs in genome sequencing technologies and our growing understanding of genetic variation among individuals, there has never been a better time to propel the field of pharmacogenomics,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. “Through these studies, we are moving closer to the goal of using genetic information to help prescribe the safest, most effective medicine for each patient.”

Spearheaded by the NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) and launched in 2000, the PGRN has already identified gene variants linked to responses to medicines for different cancers, heart disease, asthma, nicotine addiction and other conditions.

The expanded network will continue research in these areas and move into new ones, including rheumatoid arthritis and bipolar disorder. Network scientists will also develop novel research methods and study the use of pharmacogenetics in rural and underserved populations.

The new awards include 14 scientific research projects and seven network resources. The resources will benefit PGRN scientists by:

  • offering deep DNA sequencing capacity by partnering with experts in this field
  • providing statistical analysis expertise
  • developing standardized terminology for pharmacogenomics research
  • piloting ways to learn about pharmacogenomics from de-identified medical records in health care systems
  • continuing and expanding a 2-year-old international collaboration with the Center for Genomic Medicine at the RIKEN Institute in Yokohama, Japan.