NIH launches initiative to seek views on pharmacogenomics

By Wai Lang Chu

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Pharmaceutical companies, Pharmacology, Gene

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has launched a unique
initiative aimed at gathering opinion in the scientific community
regarding opportunities and research gaps in order to advance the
fields of pharmacogenomics and pharmacogenetics.

The initiative, carried out on behalf of the Trans-NIH Pharmacogenomics Working Group, specifically aims to collect views on research approaches, from discovery-based efforts to validation and applied studies, in order to accelerate the translation of pharmacogenomics knowledge into the clinical practice setting. Pharmacogenomics and pharmacogenetics are increasingly gaining prominence within the research community as scientists begin to unravel little by little just how much of an effect an individual's genetic make up has on the efficacy of a drug. The two fields are technically different but the two terms are used interchangeably. Pharmacogenomics refers to the general study of all of the many different genes that determine drug behaviour while pharmacogenetics refers to the study of inherited differences (variation) in drug metabolism and response. As well as the scientific community, pharmaceutical companies, federal agencies, and other parties are also invited to send over 'transformative ideas and approaches,' about how to address the difficulties facing these branches of medical science. "Collectively, we want to identify ways in which NIH can effectively and efficiently address these barriers​," said the NIH. "The best ideas will have great potential to dramatically affect how biomedical research is conducted over the next decade, yet will be concrete and achievable tasks​." A 1998 study of hospitalised patients published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that in 1994, adverse drug reactions accounted for more than 2.2m serious cases and over 100,000 deaths, making adverse drug reactions (ADRs) one of the leading causes of hospitalisation and death in the U.S. Currently, there is no simple way to determine whether people will respond well, badly, or not at all to a medication; therefore, pharmaceutical companies are limited to developing drugs using a "one size fits all​" system. Pharmacogenomics/genetics allows for the development of drugs to which the "average​" patient will respond. But, as the statistics reveal, one size does not fit all, sometimes with devastating results. Nowadays the use of sequence gene chips combined with modern ultra-high-throughput technologies is the best way to identify a person's genetic make up. However genetic tests using gene chips can diagnose a very limited range of conditions, analysing just 1.5 per cent of the genome that, to date, includes the genes known to be important in disease. It is hoped that views and opinions collected as a result of this initiative could take current research into new directions, with the possibility of expanding these genetic tests to identify other parts of the human genome. Examples of the type of ideas NIH is seeking include those that would address challenges that "no other entity is likely to be able to successfully conduct​," those that will generate publicly accessible knowledge, and those that clearly benefit public health. A formal Request for Information appears in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts. Suggestions are to be sent to the NIGMS website​ by April 30.

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