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Government News
NIH Tries Moving Findings From Bench to Bedside
Psychiatric News
Volume 42 Number 20 page 6-6

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has funded a new research initiative, the Interdisciplinary Research Consortia, designed to bring together top scientists from different disciplines to speed up bench-to-bedside progress and create solutions to complex biomedical problems that are "resistant to traditional research approaches." NIH announced the initiative in September.

The consortia are funded by the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research, which supports innovative programs designed to make research more efficient and productive. The interdisciplinary approach attempts to integrate the knowledge and research methods in diverse areas such as basic biological sciences, genomics, proteomics, bioinformatics, biostatistics, chemistry, stem-cell biology, mechanical and tissue engineering, neurology, behavioral research, and social sciences. Through this initiative, NIH hopes to "dissolve departmental boundaries" between its institutes and centers and" change the NIH approach to interdisciplinary research administration," according to the announcement.

The following nine interdisciplinary research consortia will receive a total of $210 million of funding over the next five years:

These consortia will investigate both the basic science and the social and behavioral components in complex problems such as preserving the fertility of women with cancer, engineering new tissue and organs, rapid discovery and design of new drugs, and attacking obesity from many medical and psychosocial fronts. Psychiatric, neurologic, and behavioral research will be heavily represented in these programs, as will genetic research.

The Consortium for Neuropsychiatric Phenomics—Coordinating Center, for example, led by Robert Bilder, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist and professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine, plans to "break down artificial boundaries between psychiatric syndromes by studying important brain-relevant phenotypes across different diagnoses, and by combining basic and clinical sciences within the same projects," according to the consortium's statement on its Web site.

"From genome to syndrome" is the key concept of a new discipline called phenomics, which requires close collaboration among clinicians, basic-research scientists, and informatics scientists who use computers to make sense of massive amounts of genetic data.

The Neurotherapeutics Research Consortium will conduct animal and human studies to identify neuroprotective agents that will prevent or treat psychiatric complications (such as depression, anxiety, psychosis, cognitive deficits) in fragile X-associated tremor/ataxia syndrome (a genetic neurological disease with similarities to Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease), according to James Bourgeois, O.D., M.D., co-principal investigator of the consortium and a professor of psychosomatic medicine in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of California at Davis. He told Psychiatric News that this research will have broad implications for developing treatments for other types of dementia and neurological or genetic disorders with psychiatric features.

The Interdisciplinary Research Consortium on Stress, Self-Control, and Addiction will investigate the "three-way interplay between stress, self-control, and addiction," including the links between stress and various mental disorders. The consortium plans to integrate biological, behavioral, and social-science research to identify the mechanism of stress-related addictive behavior and the mechanism of self-control. The goal is eventually to spur the development of social, behavioral, and pharmacological strategies to increase self-control.

The interdisciplinary research programs included in the Roadmap for Medical Research share a common goal— "to help transform the way research is conducted.. .and enable change in academic research culture," said NIH Director Elias Zerhouni, M.D.

Additional information on NIH interdisciplinary research consortia is posted at<www.ncrr.nih.gov/biomedical_technology/interdisciplinary_research_centers/funded_centers.asp>.

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