NIH Launches Centers for Common Disease Genomics

January 14, 2016

January 14, 2016 | The National Institutes of Health today launched the Centers for Common Disease Genomics (CCDG). With funding from the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), the new CCDG centers could receive $260 million over four years.

In addition, NIH announced the expansion of the Centers for Mendelian Genomics (CMG). With funding from the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), and the National Eye Institute (NEI), the CMG will receive about $49 million over four years. A new Coordinating Center will receive approximately $4 million to facilitate research collaborations among the program grantees over four years, and to contribute to data analysis and program outreach. 

CCDG will explore the genomic contributions to common diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke and autism. CCDG researchers plan to develop approaches for using genome sequencing to study common disease more broadly. By sequencing an expected 150,000 to 200,000 genomes of individuals with these diseases, the CCDG program hopes to improve understanding of how genomic differences among people influence disease risk and develop models for future studies of common disease.

The CMG was started in 2011 to systematically identify the genomic causes of Mendelian diseases. By sequencing and analyzing the protein-coding portions of more than 20,000 human genomes over the past four years, CMG investigators have identified over 740 genes that likely cause Mendelian diseases and have developed and disseminated tools that enable scientists to rapidly discover such genes. CMG will continue investigating the genomic underpinnings of rare, typically inherited diseases, such as cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy.

“Advances in DNA sequencing are creating tremendous new opportunities for exploring how the genome plays a role in human disease,” said NHGRI Director Eric Green, M.D., Ph.D., in a press release. “Our continued focus on both rare and common diseases promises to reveal important aspects about the genomic architecture of a wide range of human disorders.” 

The new CCDG program represents an important step in the evolution of NHGRI’s long-standing, flagship Genome Sequencing Program (GSP). In its earliest phase, the GSP represented NIH’s major contribution to the Human Genome Project. As DNA sequencing costs dropped, the GSP focused much of its efforts on large-scale genome sequencing projects, most recently organized as Large-Scale Genome Sequencing and Analysis Centers, one of several NHGRI genome sequencing efforts launched in 2011. Those centers contributed to a wide range of pioneering genomic studies, including the 1000 Genomes Project, which involved sequencing thousands of human genomes to help chronicle genomic differences among and between populations across the world, and The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), an NHGRI partnership with the National Cancer Institute that catalogued genomic changes involved in cancer.

CCDG investigators will initially focus on cardiovascular/metabolic and neuropsychiatric diseases, and are considering exploring other disorders, including inflammatory/autoimmune and bone/skeletal diseases, and Alzheimer’s disease. Pending available funds, NHGRI will provide roughly $240 million over four years to four centers. NHLBI will provide an additional $20 million.

NHGRI will also provide $40 million for the CMG program, pending available funding. In addition, NHLBI and NEI will provide $8 million and $1 million in funding, respectively.