NIH grants focus on tech creation to improve gene sequencing

The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), part of the National Institutes of Health, has announced $18.7 million in grant funding for research projects to improve human gene sequencing data to better understand and treat disease.

Over the past eight years, genomics researchers developed technologies and tools that reduced the cost of producing human genome sequences from $100,000 each to less than $8,000, NHGRI says in a Sept. 14 announcement. The six new grants are intended to promote more research, further reducing the cost and time involved in gene sequencing, and to improve accuracy, the institute says.

"Several of the investigative teams will explore novel nanoscale sensing modes and approaches for manipulating DNA molecules with great precision by using nanoscale structures," Jeffery A. Schloss, Ph.D., program director for NHGRI's Advanced DNA Sequencing Technology Program, said in the statement.

The first year of the multiyear grants are funded, but remaining funding is dependent on continued congressional appropriations. Included among those receiving grants are:

  • Genapsys Inc. of Redwood City, Calif.: $1.2 million this year, total of $3.3 million over three years, to develop easy-to-use, chip-based DNA sequencing that combines multiple sample processing steps with sequencing in a single device called the Gene Electronic Nano-Integrated Ultra-Sensitive platform.
  • Columbia University, New York City: $500,000 this year and $1.5 million over three years to develop faster, more sensitive electronics to enable sequencing based on arrays of nanopores.
  • Intel Corp. of Santa Clara, Calif.; University of Twente, Enschede-Noord, the Netherlands; Columbia University, Pacific Biosciences, Menlo Park, Calif.: $1.2 million this year, $5 million over four years to develop a real-time, single-molecule sequencer that detects electrically active tags to be attached to each of four DNA subunits.

Earlier this month, researchers announced they had begun to unravel the secrets behind what had been known as "junk DNA." A massive, multiyear data analytics project called ENCODE demonstrated the material contains millions of genetic switches that regulate genes, playing a role in genetic diseases.

To learn more:
- read the announcement

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