NIH on Tuesday announced that it will launch a research program intended to encourage the development and adoption of genome-editing technology for the treatment of diseases and conditions caused by an individual's DNA.
Under the initiative, called the Somatic Cell Genome Editing program, NIH plans to award roughly $190 million in research grants over the next six years to:
- Assemble a genome-editing toolkit for the scientific community that includes both methods and tools;
- Collaborate to improve delivery mechanisms for targeting gene-editing tools in patient populations;
- Develop assays to test the safety and efficacy of genome-editing tools in animal and human cells; and
- Develop and improve genome editors.
The program focuses on somatic cells, which do not pass DNA from one generation to the next. As a result, any DNA changes resulting from genome-editing therapies developed under the program would not be inherited.
NIH said it will release funding opportunity announcements for the program within a month. The funding will come from NIH's Common Fund.
NIH Director Francis Collins said, "Genome-editing technologies such as CRISPR/Cas9 are revolutionizing biomedical research." He added, "The focus of the Somatic Cell Genome Editing program is to dramatically accelerate the translation of these technologies to the clinic for treatment of as many genetic diseases as possible" (Kim Cohen, Becker's Heath IT & CIO Review, 1/23; Morse, Healthcare IT News, 1/24; Brown, Gizmodo, 1/24; Ehley/Demko, "Pulse," Politico, 1/24; NIH release, 1/23).
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