The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a $1.4 million twoyear grant to personal genome service company 23andMe. The grant is intended to help the company enhance its survey tools and expand its gene database. Among other matters, the grant will be used for webbased survey refinements designed to improve the company’s ability to identify novel genetic associations and support the collection of a broader set of phenotypic data to improve survey usability. 23andMe will also use data from large public and internal sequencing projects, aiming to discover rarer, more penetrant genetic associations. The company’s external researchers will also be able to access aggregated de-identified data from its database to accelerate the pace of human genetic research. According to a news source, the project will lead to a database with genotypes for 40 million single nucleotide polymorphisms, as well as information on thousands of diseases and traits for more than 400,000 individuals. See Reuters and GenomeWeb, July 29, 2014.
Meanwhile, FierceBiotech has analyzed NIH funding data to determine the disorders and diseases that the U.S. government has apparently prioritized. With a current budget of $30.1 billion, NIH is the single largest funder of biomedical research in the world. Although funding was slashed nearly across the board in 2013 due to sequestration and automatic spending cuts that have been instituted in the absence of congressional budgetary compromise, the top disease areas by amount of funding since fiscal year 2012 are cancer, infectious diseases, brain disorders, rare diseases, pediatric disorders, HIV/AIDS, aging, mental health, cardiovascular, emerging infectious diseases, neurodegenerative, digestive disorders, heart disease, lung disease, and hematologic diseases. See FierceBiotech Research, July 22, 104.