Four-year, $43 million initiative engages broad expertise in study of mystery conditions
, Tues., July 1, 2014 - The National Institutes of Health has awarded grants to six medical centers around the country to select from the most difficult-to-solve medical cases and together develop effective approaches to diagnose them. The clinical sites will conduct clinical evaluation and scientific investigation in cases that involve patients with prolonged undiagnosed conditions.
Each clinical site will contribute local medical expertise to the NIH Undiagnosed Diseases Network (UDN). The network includes and is modeled after an NIH pilot program that has enrolled people with intractable medical conditions from nearly every state, the District of Columbia and seven foreign countries. The network builds on a program at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Md., that for the past six years has evaluated hundreds of patients and provided many diagnoses, often using genomic approaches, for rare conditions.
"Newly developed methods for genome sequencing now provide us amazingly powerful approaches for deciphering the causes of rare undiagnosed conditions," said Eric D. Green, M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Human Genome Research Institute. "Along with robust clinical evaluations, genomics will play a central role in the UDN's mission." Dr. Green and Story Landis, Ph.D., director of the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke, co-chair the UDN working group.
Undiagnosed diseases are conditions that even skilled physicians cannot diagnose despite extensive clinical investigation. They may not be recognized by doctors because they are rarely seen, are previously undescribed, or are rare forms of more common diseases.
The NIH Common Fund awarded four-year grants of approximately $7.2 million (pending available funds) to each of the six medical centers around the country. James M. Anderson, M.D., Ph.D., director of the NIH Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives (DPCPSI), announced in an NIH telebriefing that the six newly awarded sites join a clinical site already established at NIH in pursuing cutting-edge diagnoses. In addition, this past December, NIH selected Harvard Medical School as the UDN Coordinating Center for the multi-institution network.
"The NIH Undiagnosed Diseases Network has the potential to transform medicine and serve as a catalyst for new discoveries," said Dr. Anderson. "It is an ideal NIH Common Fund program-the only one focused on diagnoses of rare disorders."