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The Business of Giving

Exploring philanthropy, non-profits and socially motivated business, from the Gates Foundation to your donation. A fresh look at the economy of good intentions.

September 30, 2009 at 2:35 PM

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Seattle's ISB nets federal money for cancer research

Posted by Kristi Heim

The Institute for Systems Biology was chosen to receive nearly $8 million in federal funds for research into the genetic causes of cancer and potential targeted treatments.

A member of the Cancer Genome Atlas Research Network, ISB will analyze data gathered by research centers around the country with the goal of learning how environmental factors affect genes and cause cells to malfunction, leading to cancer. ISB will then use the knowledge to identify drug targets and therapeutic treatments. The principal investigator at ISB is Ilya Shmulevich.

The Research Network has initially focused on cancers of the brain, breast, kidney, lungs and ovaries. Part of ISB's role is to develop state-of-the-art software and other tools that assist researchers with processing and integrating data analysis.

The award is $7.88 million over five years, with $3.1 million of the funding approved so far, according to the National Institutes of Health. The project is jointly run by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), both under the NIH.

Note: The ISB funding was not, as I reported yesterday based on information from ISB, part of the federal stimulus package announced by President Obama in a plan to spend $5 billion on medical and scientific research, medical supplies and upgrading laboratory capacity.

Funding for the Cancer Genome Atlas came from two different sources -- $175 million from the Recovery Act and $100 million pledged jointly by the National Cancer Institute and the National Human Genome Research Institute.

The cancer research funds came to ISB from that second pool of $100 million, ISB spokesman Todd Langton said Thursday. ISB did receive Recovery Act funds -- a $2.3 million grant to complete an atlas of human peptides and a $200,000 grant to study how external factors combine with genetic factors to drive asthma attacks.

A full list of NIH grants as part of the Recovery Act is available here. Other large grants awarded in Washington state include $8.5 million to the Northwest Institute of Genetic Medicine at UW and $8.3 million to the Allen Institute for Brain Science. In fact, various UW researchers have racked up a total of more than $80 million in NIH grants this year alone.

ISB, a non-profit research institute on the north end of Lake Union, is hiring an additional eight people and dedicating some of its existing full time positions to the project, ISB spokesman Todd Langton said.

The institute is pioneering an approach to medicine it calls P4 -- predictive, preventive, personalized and participatory. The idea is that future medicine will consider the unique biology of an individual and his or her probability of developing various diseases, and then design appropriate treatments before a disease manifests.

More than 1,500 Americans die from cancer every day, according to the NIH, and the rate is expected to rise as the U.S. population ages.

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