Efforts to better understand how patients' genes influence their response to medication are getting a substantial funding boost from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The NIH has designated $161.3 million to expand the Pharmacogenomics Research Network, a multi-institution network that has so far identified genetic variants that alter patients' responses to medications for certain cancers, heart disease, asthma, and nicotine addiction. With the additional funding, the network will probe gene-medication interactions for additional disorders, including bipolar disorder and rheumatoid arthritis. The Pharmacogenomics Knowledge Base (PharmGKB), a free online database of gene-medication interactions for scientists, will also get a $15 million funding boost from the NIH (http://www.pharmgkb.org). Over the next 5 years, the funds will be used to develop tools to automatically update the database with information from the scientific literature and other databases, develop guidelines for physicians on how to use gene tests to customize medication dosages, analyze additional genomes, and study the molecular basis of drug toxicity and drug-drug interactions.