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NIH renews network focused on how genes influence drug responses

Findings will pave the way for individually tailored therapiesContinuing its strong support for studies on how genes affect responses to medications, the National Institutes of Health anticipates spending more than $150 million over five years to renew its Pharmacogenetics Research Network (PGRN). The research of this nationwide network of scientists will eventually help doctors tailor drug prescriptions to people's unique genetic make-ups.

Spearheaded by NIH's National Institute of General Medical Sciences and originally funded from 2000 to 2005, the PGRN's record of success includes discoveries about medications used for such serious diseases as cancer, heart disease, and asthma. To read about more of these successes, go to

"By showing how our genes influence our responses to medicines, the PGRN is making critical advances that will maximize the benefits of treatment while minimizing adverse side effects. This will ultimately improve patient outcomes and reduce health care costs," said NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, MD.

The network is supported by nine NIH components: NIGMS; the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; the National Cancer Institute; the National Human Genome Research Institute; the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences; the National Library of Medicine; the National Institute on Drug Abuse; the National Institute of Mental Health; and the Office of Research on Women's Health.

The new network consists of 12 groups, listed below alphabetically by principal investigator. Also included are the anticipated 5-year totals for each award.

The Pharmacogenetics and Pharmacogenomics Knowledge Base (PharmGKB)--$13.7 million provided by NIGMS, NHGRI, NHLBI, and NLM to develop and operate this online resource, which serves as a s hared information library for pharmacogenetics research. To protect the privacy of research study participants, names and other identifying information are not stored in this knowledge base. (Russ B. Altman, M.D., Ph.D., Stanford University School of Medicine)

  • Pharmacogenetics of Nicotine Addiction and Treatment--$10 million provided by NIDA, NIGMS, and NCI for a multicenter, interdisciplinary program to examine the genetic basis for individual variation in response to medications for treating tobacco dependence. (Neal L. Benowitz, M.D., University of California, San Francisco)

  • Consortium on Breast Cancer Pharmacogenomics--$11.6 million provided by NIGMS, NIEHS, and ORWH to investigate how genetic differences explain variable responses to tamoxifen and hormone treatments frequently prescribed to treat breast cancer. (David A. Flockhart, M.D., Ph.D., Indiana University School of Medicine)

  • The Pharmacogenetics of Membrane Transporters--$15 million provided by NIGMS, NCI, and NIMH to study how drug response is affected by variability in the genes for "gatekeeper" molecules called membrane transporters, which interact with up to a third of the most commonly used prescription drugs. (Kathleen M. Giacomini, Ph.D., University of California, San Francisco)

  • Pharmacogenomic Evaluation of Antihypertensive Responses--$11.1 million provided by NIGMS to identify which genes play a role in people's widely variable responses to high blood pressure drugs. (Julie A. Johnson, Pharm.D., University of Florida in Gainesville)

  • Pharmacogenetics and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease--$14.8 million provided by NHLBI to determine the effects of gene variations on responses to statins, the most commonly used medications to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. (Ronald M. Krauss, M.D., University of California, Berkeley/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)

  • Functional Polymorphism Analysis in Drug Pathways--$10.5 million provided by NIGMS and NCI for a multidisciplinary team to study genetic variation in the molecular pathways that regulate anticancer drug responses. (Howard L. McLeod, Pharm.D., Washington University in St. Louis)

  • Pharmacogenetics of Anticancer Agents--$14.9 million provided by NIGMS and NCI to examine how genetic variability affects responses to anticancer drugs, including those used to treat childhood leukemia and colorectal cancer. (Mark Ratain, M.D., University of Chicago, and Mary V. Relling, Pharm.D., St. Jude Children's Research Hospital)

  • Pharmacogenomics of Arrhythmia Therapy--$14 million provided by NHLBI to discover the common DNA variants that determine why drugs used to treat potentially fatal irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias) are beneficial to some people and harmful to others. (Dan M. Roden, M.D., Vanderbilt University)

  • The Amish Pharmacogenomics of Antiplatelet Intervention Study --$7.5 million provided by NIGMS to characterize the genetic basis for why people respond differently to medicines, including aspirin, used to prevent clotting and treat cardiovascular disease. (Alan R. Shuldiner, M.D., University of Maryland School of Medicine)

  • Pharmacogenetics of Phase II Drug Metabolizing Enzymes --$12.6 million provided by NIGMS and NCI to characterize variations in ge nes encoding proteins already known to be important in the body's handling and disposal of a wide array of medicines, hormones, and chemical messengers. (Richard Weinshilboum, M.D., Mayo Clinic College of Medicine)

  • Pharmacogenetics of Asthma Treatment--$16.8 million provided by NHLBI to identify which genes control individual responses to asthma drugs so physicians can predict whether a patient will benefit from a medication. (Scott Weiss, M.D., Brigham and Women's Hospital/Harvard Medical School)


  • Source:NIH/National Institute of General Medical Sciences

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