The National Institute of Mental Health has awarded the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology and the University of Michigan grant monies totaling $7.8 million to identify genes and pathways that contribute to the risk for bipolar disorder.
“Bipolar disorder is severely disabling and often life threatening,” said HudsonAlpha Institute President and Director Rick Myers, Ph.D. “This study, which will continue into 2014, will increase our understanding of bipolar disorder and support identification of targeted therapies and approaches for treatment.”
According to NIMH, children with a parent or sibling who has bipolar disorder are four to six times more likely to develop the illness, compared with children who do not have a family history of the disorder. This project, Myers noted, encompasses more than 7,000 individuals and aims to provide more accurate prediction of risk.
“This project builds on the active collaboration between HudsonAlpha and the University of Michigan,” said Myers. “Our research team combines strengths in high-throughput genetics and genomics and development and application of innovative computational and statistical methods to maximize the benefits of cutting-edge technologies.”
Myers is the lead investigator for the project; fellow HudsonAlpha investigators Devin Absher, Ph.D., and Shawn Levy, Ph.D., are also key contributors to the study. Michael Boehnke, Ph.D., director of the Center for Statistical Genetics at the University of Michigan and about dozen additional colleagues round out the research team.
The first phase of the NIMH-funded project will include whole genome sequencing of 2,000 individuals; half who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and half who have not been diagnosed with the disorder. Scientists will look for similarities among those diagnosed with bipolar as compared with the control population.
An additional 5,000 individuals will be included in comparative studies addressed with separate funding.
“We are tremendously gratified to be leading this major body of research,” said Myers.
Bipolar disorder often develops in young adulthood. According to NIMH, at least half of all cases start before age 25. Symptoms may seem like separate problems, not recognized as parts of a larger problem so diagnosis may be impeded and therapy, therefore, delayed.
The HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville, Alabama, is the cornerstone of the Cummings Research Park Biotechnology Campus. The campus hosts a synergistic cluster of life sciences talent – science, education and business professionals – that promises collaborative innovation to turn knowledge and ideas into commercial products and services for improving human health and strengthening Alabama’s progressively diverse economy. The non-profit institute is housed in a state-of-the-art, 270,000 square-ft. facility strategically located in the nation’s second largest research park. HudsonAlpha has a three-fold mission of genomic research, economic development and educational outreach.