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September 23, 2014
Five University of Chicago research projects are receiving supplemental funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as part of a $10.1 million investment to explore the effects of gender in preclinical and clinical studies. A total of 82 supplemental grants were awarded Tuesday.
This investment encourages researchers to study both females and males, and is a catalyst for considering sex as a fundamental variable in scientific and medical research. The current overreliance on male subjects in preclinical research can obscure important findings that could guide later human studies. This progressive approach will result in greater awareness of the need to study both sexes, demonstrate how research can incorporate sex and reinforce the value of taking gender into account as these studies yield results.
"This focus on sex-differences at NIH is very important as many human traits, including diseases, display sex-biased characteristics," said Barbara Stranger, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Chicago. "It is important to characterize these differences in detail and to understand what underlies them."
The awards announced Tuesday are the latest round of funding in a program described in a May 2014 Nature commentary by NIH leaders. In the op-ed piece, NIH officials said future grant applicants will be required to address the influence gender in the design and analysis of biomedical research with animals and cells.
"Identifying sex-differences, or proving that an observation is equally valid in both males and females, is critical to understanding biological systems and will go a long way to improving our ability to translate our findings to humans," said Abraham Palmer, PhD, associate professor of human genetics at the University of Chicago.
The projects funded at the University of Chicago include:
Two of the new University of Chicago Medicine awards, led by Stranger and Nancy Cox, PhD, Professor and Section Chief of Genetic Medicine, are supplements to existing grants from the NIH Common Fund, which identifies and funds areas of biomedical science to create new fields of research and to develop large-scale public resources that benefit the research community. Knowledge gained from these supplements is expected to impact research across a variety of scientific disciplines.
"This funding strategy demonstrates our commitment to moving the needle toward better health for all Americans, while helping grow our knowledge base for both sexes and building research infrastructure to aid future studies," said Janine Austin Clayton, MD, the NIH's associate director for women's health research. "The scientists receiving these awards have approached their research questions with fresh thinking, and are looking for innovation and discovery through a new lens."
About the Office of Research on Women's Health: The NIH Office of Research on Women's Health (ORWH) promotes research that considers sex and gender to provide critical insights essential to understanding women's health. ORWH also works to ensure that NIH clinical research takes sex/gender and race/ethnicity into account across the lifespan. ORWH establishes the NIH research agenda for women's health, co-funds research in partnership with NIH Institutes and Centers, and advances women in biomedical careers and women's health researchers. Learn more about ORWH.
About the Common Fund: The NIH Common Fund encourages collaboration and supports a series of exceptionally high-impact, trans-NIH programs. Common Fund programs are designed to pursue major opportunities and gaps in biomedical research that no single NIH Institute could tackle alone, but that the agency as a whole can address to make the biggest impact possible on the progress of medical research. Learn more about the NIH Common Fund.
About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. Learn more about NIH and its programs.