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NIH injects $275 million into undiagnosed diseases and RNA research

In July, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH)'s Common Fund announced pledges of $145 million for research into undiagnosed diseases and $130 million to study extracellular RNA communication. These areas represent “key roadblocks in biomedical research and...emerging scientific opportunities ripe for Common Fund investment,” according to Elizabeth Wilder, director of the NIH's Office of Strategic Coordination, which manages the program. The Common Fund, established in 2006, is a $545-million pot of discretionary money, to support research that cuts across institutes. The NIH's Undiagnosed Diseases Program (UDP) joined the National Human Genome Research Institute, the NIH Office of Rare Diseases Research and the NIH Clinical Center together in an effort to serve patients with mystery diseases that have eluded diagnoses. Since its inception in 2008, more than 200 cases have been tackled by the UDP. With the new funding, UDP will go extramural (the projects up until now have been intramural) to establish a network of medical research centers that will leverage advances in genomics to gain understanding of the mechanisms underlying these conditions, and improve their diagnosis and treatment. An estimated 6% of the US population suffers from such conditions. The Extracellular RNA Communication program, meanwhile, will explore how RNA is released from cells and packaged for transport, and then interacts with and influences specific cell types and functions. This offers a chance to “transform our understanding of endocrinology and intercellular communication,” Wilder says, as well as provide opportunities for diagnostics and therapeutics. This initiative will launch in fiscal 2013 and run for five years. Further details on the Undiagnosed Diseases Program are expected in fiscal year 2014.


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Allison, M. NIH injects $275 million into undiagnosed diseases and RNA research. Nat Biotechnol 30, 816 (2012).

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