Researchers will synthesize molecules to support the new field of metabolomics
MENLO PARK, Calif.—January 6, 2014—SRI International has received a $4.5 million contract from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, to establish a Metabolite Standards Synthesis Center to prepare molecules for researchers to use in the emerging field of metabolomics.
Like genomics and proteomics, which study the collective characterization and quantification of biological molecules in an organism, metabolomics is the study of all of the chemical reactions that take place in the body to sustain life. It’s like taking a chemical snapshot of the physiology of a cell or entire body.
Enormous amounts of information can be gleaned from comprehensively characterizing thousands of the chemical byproducts of metabolism called metabolites. Metabolomics offers new ways for researchers to detect disease, monitor disease progression and response to therapy, stratify patients based on biochemical profiles, and identify new biomarkers and drug targets. A major roadblock in metabolomics research, however, is that researchers often do not have access to the metabolite standards they need to confirm and quantify their results.
“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, Ph.D., director of the Center for Chemical Biology in SRI Biosciences and principal investigator of SRI’s Metabolite Standards Synthesis Center. “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.”
SRI’s Metabolite Standards Synthesis Center will begin to fill the gap by creating a library of thousands of metabolites that will be made available to the scientific community. Synthesized metabolites function as standards for research and are critical for confirming the identity of previously unknown components in biological samples such as blood or urine. Studies of these small molecule metabolites will improve understanding of disease processes, reveal new biomarkers of disease, and provide new ways of monitoring therapeutic outcomes.
The SRI contract is part of a multicomponent program developed by the NIH Common Fund Metabolomics Program. The overall goal of the program is to increase metabolomics research capacity in the United States by supporting infrastructure expansion, training, technology development, and reference standards synthesis.
Requests for compound synthesis should be submitted to the Metabolomics Workbench. Upon NIH approval, SRI chemists will prepare sufficient material for the original requester and future projects.
About SRI Biosciences
SRI Biosciences carries out basic research, drug discovery, and drug development. SRI has all of the resources necessary to take R&D from initial discoveries to clinical trials. SRI's product pipeline has yielded marketed drugs, therapeutics currently in human testing, and additional programs at earlier stages. SRI Biosciences offers a wide range of contract research organization (CRO) services, helping government and industry clients and partners advance drugs and other biomedical products toward commercialization. SRI is also working to create the next generation of technologies in areas such as diagnostics, drug delivery, medical devices, and systems biology.
This project has been funded in whole with Federal funds from the National, Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, under Contract No. HHSN268201300022C.