David Schwartz gave a great talk this afternoon – he’s the director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, which recently created the ‘Genes and Environment Initiative,’ a five-year research effort that hopes to identify the genetic and environmental causes of asthma, arthritis, and other common diseases.
The initiative has two components: the first involves “”http://www.niehs.nih.gov/oc/news/gei.htm">efficiently analyzing genetic variation in groups of patients with specific illnesses," and the second involves the development of new devices that can monitor “”http://www.niehs.nih.gov/oc/news/gei.htm">personal environmental exposures that interact with genetic variations and result in human diseases."
Why – you might ask – is the NIH spending approximately 192 million dollars on this new initiative? Well, we know that “”http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/296/5568/695">[g]enetic and environmental factors, including diet and life-style, both contribute to cardiovascular disease, cancers, and other major causes of mortality," and there’s a growing body of evidence that suggests that environmental factors are responsible for a large percentage of these diseases.
The NIEHS will use a portion of this money to fund grants that involve “”http://www.niehs.nih.gov/oc/news/gei.htm">innovative new technologies to measure environmental toxins, dietary intake and physical activity, and to determine an individual’s biological response to those influences, using new tools of genomics, proteomics and metabolomics," so this looks like an excellent opportunity for chemists interested in complex diseases and human health.
For more information on the NIEHS 2006–2011 Strategic Plan, see “”http://www.niehs.nih.gov/external/plan2006/StrategicPlan2006final.pdf">New Frontiers in Environmental Sciences and Human Health."
Joshua Finkelstein (Associate Editor, Nature)