Funds Nine Centers to Speed
Powerful New Research
Will Produce Chemical Probes to Explore New Targets for Therapies
funding of a network of nine centers across the country that
high tech screening methods to identify small molecules for
use as probes to investigate the diverse functions of cells
was announced today by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The network-funded at approximately $70 million annually over
the four-year production phase-is designed to increase the
pace of development and use of chemical (small molecule) probes,
which have become invaluable tools for exploring biologic processes
and for developing new therapies for disease.
"This network marks a new era in academic and government research as NIH-funded
scientists will have access to the tools for rapidly screening hundreds of thousands
of small molecules against many novel biological assays at lower costs than previously
possible," said Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., NIH director. "The information
generated by this network will be important to developing a greater understanding
of biology and its complexity, while hopefully discovering novel approaches to
therapies and prevention, especially for rare or neglected diseases."
As genomics research reveals more about the enormous complexity of cell function,
new approaches are needed to understand the details. Small molecule probes
can be minutely targeted to interact with one site of a cell’s chemical machinery,
thus providing information on a specific step in a cascade of cell functions.
In some cases, small molecules may have activity that gives them potential
for eventual therapeutic as well as research use; or, they may identify targets
in the cell for the design of future therapies.
Libraries Probe Production Centers Network is the second phase
of a program begun in 2004 as part of the Molecular Libraries
and Imaging Initiative under
NIH’s Roadmap for Medical Research.
tests used to screen for specific types of probes-solicited
by NIH from the research community, the network will screen
a library of more than 300,000 small molecules maintained
in the program’s Molecular Libraries Small Molecule Repository.
is located in San Francisco at Biofocus DPI, a drug discovery
research company. Data generated by the screening
is available to the public through PubChem,
a database created and managed by NIH’s National Library
Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the
National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) will
co-administer the network on behalf of NIH.
Program funding will transition out of the Roadmap in years five and
"Discoveries from genomics and proteomics have given us thousands of new
proteins but little understanding of what many of them do in the cell," said
Thomas R. Insel, M.D., NIMH director. "This screening effort will
identify small molecules that influence these newly discovered proteins,
allowing us to
understand how many of them function. And for proteins involved in disease
states, today’s small molecule could be tomorrow’s medication."
collaborative effort will give academic and government researchers
in the global research community robust chemical tools to understand
the cellular mechanisms of disease and a much more vigorous
way to identify useful biological targets," said NHGRI
Acting Director, Alan E. Guttmacher, M.D.
institutions funded as part of the network are:
of NIMH, a component of NIH, is to transform the understanding
and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical
research, paving the way for prevention, recovery and cure.