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Environmental Factor, October 2015

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New children’s health research projects funded by NIH

By Robin Makar

Researchers working to improve children’s health now have more opportunities to understand the role environmental exposures play in children’s health and development, thanks to new funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

NIEHS joined with NIH Sept. 28 in announcing the recipients of new projects that will provide researchers an expanded range of tools to accurately measure, record, and analyze environmental exposures in children.

“I am thrilled that NIEHS was in a position to mobilize its community to put high quality proposals together and receive this additional funding,” said Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., director of NIEHS and the National Toxicology Program (NTP). “Our staff deserves a lot of credit for announcing and funding these grants in record time. Healthier children will be the ultimate beneficiaries of all our efforts.”

NIH's three-pronged approach

NIH awarded $144 million in three specific initiatives, of which NIEHS received $57 million. The initiatives include developing new tools, understanding the influence of the environment on in utero development, and leveraging existing children’s environmental health cohorts to look at later child development.

New tools

In the tool arena, the NIEHS-led Children’s Health Exposure Analysis Resource (CHEAR) will provide researchers access to laboratory and statistical analysis.
CHEAR is intended to:

  • Expand the number of studies that include environmental exposure analysis in their research.
  • Implement the exposome concept in children’s health studies.
  • Create a public resource of children’s exposures across the country.
  • Develop data and metadata standards for the environmental health sciences community.

Six researchers received awards as part of CHEAR’s National Exposure Assessment Laboratory Network. In addition, the CHEAR Center for Data Science was awarded to the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai, and Westat, Inc. will serve as the CHEAR Coordinating Center (see text box).

Understanding developmental toxicity

In support of the second NIH initiative, building understanding of the influence of the environment on in utero development, NTP, which is housed at NIEHS, will work with the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences to offer new tools for researchers working to understand human developmental processes.

The two organizations received funds to adapt high-throughput screening and other technologies developed in the Tox21 predictive toxicology effort .

Ongoing children’s environmental health cohorts

NIEHS provided supplemental funding to 13 existing research grants, enabling researchers to add or enhance high-dimensional molecular analysis approaches in existing pregnancy, birth, and children’s environmental health populations.

“Technology advances have become a powerful driver in studying and understanding the start and spread of disease,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. “These projects will expand the toolbox available to researchers to improve our ability to characterize environmental exposures, understand how environmental exposures affect in utero development and function, and bolster the infrastructure for exposure research.”

(Robin Mackar is news director in the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison, and a frequent contributor to the Environmental Factor.)

Children's Health Exposure Analysis Resource

National Exposure Assessment Laboratory Network

Kenneth Aldous, Ph.D., Wadsworth Center, New York
Timothy Fennell, Ph.D., Research Triangle Institute, North Carolina
John Meeker, Sc.D., University of Michigan
Gary Miller, Ph.D., Emory University, Georgia
Lisa Peterson, Ph.D., University of Minnesota
Robert Wright, M.D., Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York

Data Repository, Analysis, and Science Center

Susan Teitelbaum, Ph.D. Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai, New York

Coordinating Center

Barbara O'Brien, Westat, Inc., Maryland

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