In 1998, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) invited grant applications for Centers of Excellence in Molecular Hematology. In fiscal year 1999, three Core Center Grants (P30) were awarded to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle; the Children's Hospital Boston; and the Indiana University School of Medicine.
The Centers of Excellence in Molecular Hematology are part of an integrated program of hematologic diseases-related research support provided by the NIDDK. The Centers funded in this program provide a focus for increasing collaboration and improving the cost-effectiveness of supported research among groups of successful investigators at institutions with an established, comprehensive hematologic diseases research base. Institutions that are awarded center grants have an established base of programs that are high quality in laboratory and/or clinical hematologic diseases-related research.
The NIH Core Center (P30) award supports the Centers of Excellence in Molecular Hematology program. The objective of the Core Centers awards is to bring together investigators from relevant disciplines to enhance and extend the effectiveness of research related to hematologic diseases and their complications. A Core Center is identifiable unit within a single university medical center or a consortium of cooperating institutions, including an affiliated university. The overall goal of the Core Center is to bring together clinical and basic science investigators in a manner that will enrich the effectiveness of hematologic diseases research; therefore, an existing program of excellence in biomedical research in the area of hematologic diseases and disorders is required.
The central focus Centers of Excellence in Molecular Hematology is research on hematologic diseases or functional studies relating to hematologic diseases. As organizational mechanisms, the Centers promote joint efforts of both basic scientists and clinical researchers. The program's areas of emphasis include the following:
Examples of relevant investigations include
- The molecular and cellular biology of hematopoiesis and hematopoietic stem cell biology
- Erythropoietin and hematopoietic growth factors
- Receptor biology and signaling
- Blood cell metabolism; membrane biology, and ion transport heme metabolism
- Globin biosynthesis and its genetic regulation
- Iron absorption, storage and metabolism; pathophysiology of iron overload, and strategies for therapeutic intervention
- Development of approaches and techniques for gene therapy using hematopoietic cells.
- Study of gene structure and function, the structural biology of proteins and the complex biochemistry of protein interactions
- Studies of the mechanisms of intracellular iron toxicity
- Investigation of the mechanisms of hematopoietic gene regulation and of differential gene expression during hematopoietic cell maturation and differentiation
- Clinical research to test the efficacy and safety of therapeutic strategies derived from basic investigation
These studies have as their ultimate goal the development of preventive, curative, or intervention strategies in the treatment of hematopoietic diseases. Studies frequently require involvement of a broad range of investigators with training as virologists, experimental hematologists, molecular geneticists, cell biologists, veterinarians, and clinicians. Concentration of efforts such as vector development, creation of animal models, and the application of advanced instrumentation allow economies of scale and generate technologies that will be broadly applicable to the understanding of molecular disorders. These centers also serve the function of facilitating the training of new professional personnel to satisfy future manpower needs.
Centers of Excellence in Molecular Hematology are based on the core concept. Three to six cores usually are included in a Center. Cores are defined as shared resources that enhance productivity or in other ways benefit a group of investigators working in a Center to accomplish the stated goals of the Center. Examples of such resources include electron microscope, transgenic animal, and membrane preparation facilities.
Two other types of activities are also supported with Center funding: a pilot and feasibility program and an enrichment program. The pilot and feasibility program provides modest support for new initiatives or feasibility research studies.