SRI bags $4.5M NIH contract to set up metabolomics outpost

The National Institutes of Health has handed over $4.5 million to R&D nonprofit SRI International, tasking the group with establishing a molecular synthesis center to advance the growing field of metabolomics.

Separate from the well-fleshed-out fields of genomics and proteomics, metabolomics involves taking a look at all of the metabolites in a cell or organism, indexing the leftovers of chemical reactions in order to peer in on natural processes. Or, as SRI puts it, metabolomics is "like taking a chemical snapshot of the physiology of a cell or entire body," allowing researchers to detect disease, track progression and find new biomarkers.

However, despite the method's promise, many researchers don't have access to metabolite standards they need to compare and confirm their results. That's where SRI comes in. NIH's National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has charged the organization with establishing what it calls a Metabolite Standards Synthesis Center, housing a library of thousands of synthesized metabolite molecules for use by the scientific community.

"Currently, more than half of all human metabolites are unavailable, and many metabolites have never been synthesized or their structures have only been speculated, and therefore these important molecules are not available to researchers," said Mary Tanga principal investigator of SRI's Metabolite Standards Synthesis Center, said in a statement. "Researchers can pursue the answers to important questions if they actually have the compounds. The reference standards that SRI scientists will synthesize are critical to advances in metabolomics."

- read the announcement

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