Two research groups led by HMS investigators are among 20 nationwide to receive funding through the NIH Director’s Transformative Research Projects program from the National Institutes of Health Common Fund (formerly called the Roadmap for Medical Research). These T-R01 grants, like other Common Fund programs, support extraordinarily innovative research with potential for great impact in basic or clinical science. The grants have fewer restrictions than many other funding programs such as the need for preliminary data or a limit on the dollar amount being requested. In total, the 20 new projects will receive $64 million over five years.
Members of the first group are Paola Arlotta, assistant professor of Surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital, Jae Keith Joung, associate professor of Pathology at MGH, and Feng Zhang, a research fellow in Genetics. They will study genomewide light-inducible tuning of transcriptional network dynamics. The project seeks to identify and apply new technologies that use molecular regulators to regenerate specific components of the nervous system and treat neurodegenerative diseases.
The other group is led by Bryce Nickels of Rutgers University and Simon Dove, assistant professor of Pediatrics (Microbiology and Molecular Genetics) at Children’s Hospital Boston and the Immune Disease Institute. The researchers will investigate nanoRNA-mediated control of gene expression. The project challenges conventional paradigms about the synthesis of RNA by determining the extent to which small RNA fragments, called nanoRNAs, are used to initiate transcription in cells.
“Complex research projects, even exceptionally high impact ones, are tough to get funded without the necessary resources to assemble teams and collect preliminary data,” said NIH director Francis Collins in a prepared statement. “The T-R01 awards provide a way for these high-impact projects to be pursued.”