The Baylor College of Medicine Human Genome Sequencing Center has received a five-year, $2.3 million grant to join the National Institutes of Health's Pharmacogenomics Research Network, a collaborative project that seeks to advance research on how genes affect people's responses to a wide variety of medicines.

The National Institute of General Medical Sciences launched the network in 2000 to study links between genetics and drug responses.

Since the network's inception, there have been advancements in identifying genetic variants linked to responses to medicines for various cancers, heart disease, asthma and nicotine addiction.

Resource center

The Human Genome Sequencing Center will serve as a resource center for the network and assist with high-throughput sequencing of areas of the genome that may contain mutations associated with drug interaction, said Dr. Richard Gibbs, principal investigator of the BCM site and director of the Human Genome Sequencing Center.

Co-investigators at the BCM site include Drs. Michael Metzker and Steve Scherer, both associate professors in the Human Genome Sequencing Center.

The Human Genome Sequencing Center will join the network of resource centers which includes Washington University in St. Louis; the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle; the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.; the University of California in San Francisco; and Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.

New wave of funding

These resource centers will propose ideas and approve clinical research projects. The projects will be awarded to individual researchers across the country.

In this new wave of funding, 14 individual projects have been funded. Their focuses include: cancer, bipolar disorders, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis and asthma.

"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 Dr. Francis S. Collins. "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."

The Pharmacogenomics Research Network is funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences; the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; the National Cancer Institute; the National Institute on Drug Abuse; the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; the National Human Genome Research Institute; the National Institute of Mental Health; the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases; and the Office of Research on Women's Health.