Vol 6. Issue 31 / Oct 16, 2006
Neuroscience Blueprint Awards Grants to Scripps Research Scientists
By Mika Ono
The National Institutes of Health's (NIH) Blueprint for Neuroscience Research has awarded two five-year grants that fund the work of scientists at The Scripps Research Institute.
The first, a $12 million grant to support core facilities at centers of neuroscience research, funds a collaboration among researchers at four institutions on the Torrey Pines Mesa—Scripps Research, The Burnham Institute for Medical Research, the University of California, San Diego, and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.
The second, a $4 million grant to use specialized gene-targeting technology for the development of models for mental health research, was awarded to a group of four laboratories on the Scripps Research La Jolla campus.
The Blueprint for Neuroscience Research, which spans 15 NIH institutes and centers, was recently launched to develop new tools, resources, and training opportunities to accelerate the pace of discovery in neuroscience research and, ultimately, to help prevent and treat a broad range of neurological disorders. According to the World Health Organization, 450 million people around the world suffer from mental and neurological disorders. These include problems ranging from depression to Alzheimer's disease, addiction to visual and hearing loss.
A Nucleus of Activity
The $12 million La Jolla Interdisciplinary Center Core Grant brings together more than 100 scientists to develop and share resources and facilities beyond the reach of any single laboratory. The grant—only one of four awarded in the country out of some 60 applications—will help create a nucleus of activity for the local neuroscience community.
At Scripps Research, Assistant Professor Amanda Roberts will direct the group's Behavioral Assessment Core, which will provide high quality mouse behavioral assessments. A primary focus of this facility will be to provide tests that allow investigators to make transitions from laboratory findings to clinical applications, enabling scientists to model human diseases and develop medications and other treatment strategies.
"Not every lab can set up a full battery of tests," says Roberts. "Our core facility will provide these resources efficiently, drawing on expertise that already exists at Scripps. Our core facility will also make it easier to compare and contrast results across institutions. I'm excited about the potential for collaboration and for further strengthening this dynamic research community."
Also at Scripps Research, Professor John Yates, III will direct the group's mass spectrometry-based proteomic core facility, which will provide scientists with protein identification support. The core will offer high resolution and high mass accuracy measurements through microcolumn liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry and multi-dimensional liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry.
Mapping Genes to Anatomy
The second Blueprint for Neuroscience Research grant, titled Development of Recombinase-Expressing ("Driver") Mouse Lines for Studying the Nervous System, funds the use of sophisticated gene targeting technology to develop mouse models for mental health research, helping scientists to map molecular genetic changes onto the complex neuroanatomy of the brain and peripheral nervous system.
The Scripps Research collaboration—comprised of investigators Ullrich Mueller, Mark Mayford, Ardem Patapoutian, and Lisa Stowers and their teams in the Department of Cell Biology and the Institute of Childhood and Neglected Diseases—is one of only three in the country funded under this initiative.
"The award reflects the strength of our investigators' combined technical expertise," says Mueller, principal investigator for the grant, "as well as our overlapping interests in different aspects of sensory perception and memory."
Mueller conducts research relevant to problems of hearing, especially Usher Syndrome, the leading cause of deaf-blindness. Patapoutian studies the molecular basis of touch, including temperature and pain perception. Stowers investigates the sense of smell and its relation to social behavior. And Mayford focuses on the molecular events involved in learning and memory.
"The award also speaks to recent accomplishments of the Scripps Research Mouse Genetics Core," adds Mueller, who is faculty advisor to the facility.
In technical terms, the grant will fund the development of a panel of driver lines for the generation of anatomically restricted and inducible gene knock-outs. These will include lines expressing CRE or tTa transactivation for the study of tissue-specific and time-dependent regulation of gene expression in defined neuronal populations.
Send comments to: mikaono[at]scripps.edu
"I'm excited about the potential for collaboration and for further strengthening this dynamic research community."
"The award reflects the strength of our investigators' combined technical expertise, as well as our overlapping interests in different aspects of sensory perception and memory."