Public Release: 

FIC announces first awards for international collaborative genetics research and training program

NIH/Fogarty International Center

Bethesda, Maryland -- The Fogarty International Center (FIC) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and seven partners announce six new research and training grants to support international collaborations in human genetic sciences. FIC led the development of the International Collaborative Genetics Research Training Program in close collaboration with six NIH institutes and the World Health Organization. In addition to FIC, the NIH partners are the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), the National Institute on Aging (NIA), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). The combined financial commitment from FIC and its NIH partners is approximately $2.3 million for the first year of these five-year awards. Total support will be approximately $11.5 million over the next five years.

"The International Collaborative Genetics Research Training Program will help reduce health disparities between developed and developing countries through the use of genetic sciences," said FIC Director Gerald T. Keusch, M.D. on behalf of the partners. "Through the program's partnerships, we will advance human genetics research while enhancing the limited but growing technical capacity in genetic science in developing regions of the world."

In addition to training in genetic sciences, each of the six new projects will address the ethical, social, and legal implications of performing genetics research in low- and middle-income countries.

The projects will provide educational opportunities at the Master's, Ph.D., and post-doctoral levels and will contribute to the capacity of developing country scientists and institutions to conduct human genetics research relevant to the health needs of developing countries. Scientists and health professionals from low- and middle-income countries were consulted at all stages of the program's development. Keusch noted, "Our consultation with scientists from the developing world was crucial in helping us understand where the needs are most critical as we consider the nexus between genetic technology and public health."

FIC led the development of the program as part of its ongoing approach to supporting and promoting partnerships among research institutions in developed and developing countries.

The successful applicants for the first International Collaborative Genetics Research Training Program awards are:

    Dr. Michael Escamilla and colleagues at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, in collaboration with scientists at the University of Costa Rica, will train Costa Rican psychiatric residents, psychiatrists, and postdoctoral students in psychiatric genetics. The project will include training in ethics and social issues related to psychiatric genetic research, as well as training in clinical psychiatric genetic research and molecular biology. The project is intended to create a self-sustaining core of Costa Rican genetics researchers.

    Dr. Joel Gelernter and colleagues at the Yale University School of Medicine, in collaboration with the Faculty of Medicine at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand, will conduct a research-training program in the genetics of drug dependence and the ethical, legal, and social implications of genetics research. Thai researchers will receive short- and long-term fellowships to train in the United States. The project will also support one-month field exchange training rotations in Thailand for U.S. trainees. The overall goal of the project is to build research capacity to confront Thailand's rapidly growing epidemic of drug dependence.

    Dr. T. Conrad Gilliam and colleagues at Columbia University, in collaboration with scientists at the University of Zulia in Venezuela, will provide training in the genetics of common hereditable disorders relevant to Latin America and the Caribbean, with a focus on neurodegenerative disorders. Students and fellows will receive training in human genetics and associated ethical issues. In addition to carrying out independent research projects, trainees will learn about the process of developing low-cost diagnostic methods for neurodegenerative diseases.

    Dr. Ethylin Jabs and colleagues at Johns Hopkins University will collaborate with researchers at Peking Union Medical College and Peking University in Beijing, China, to provide training in the principles of genetic research on complex disorders, including birth defects and chronic diseases. Building expertise in the ethical, social, and legal implications of human genetics research will be an integral part of the curriculum.

    Dr. Vishwajit Nimgaonkar and colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh will collaborate with scientists at Lohia Hospital in New Delhi, India, to conduct research training in psychiatric genetic epidemiology and ethics. In addition to conventional didactic and practical training in the United States, the program will involve supervised field training in New Delhi. The long-term goal of the program is to better understand severe psychiatric disorders. The data resulting from this project will facilitate future genetic counseling and gene mapping efforts.

    Dr. Daniel Weeks and colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh, in collaboration with The Chatterjee Group-Indian Statistical Institute Centre for Population Genomics in Calcutta, India, will build genetic-epidemiological research capacity in India. Their research-training project focuses on genetic epidemiology and ethical conduct of human genetics research in India, with particular emphasis on statistical and computational genomics and molecular genomics. It will generate trained personnel for developing large-scale genetic epidemiological studies in India and will foster collaborations in human genetics research between scientists in India and the United States.

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FIC is the international component of the NIH. It promotes and supports scientific discovery internationally and mobilizes resources to reduce disparities in global health. FIC will commemorate its thirty-fifth anniversary in 2003 with a year-long lecture series on global health issues and a scientific symposium on May 20-21, 2003. NIH is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Press releases, fact sheets, and other FIC-related materials are available at www.nih.gov/fic.

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