The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is launching the Multi-Omics for Health and Disease Consortium, an innovative initiative that has received an initial funding allocation of approximately $11 million for its inaugural year. This pioneering consortium is dedicated to advancing the generation and analysis of “multi-omic” data for the field of human health research, with the goal of revolutionizing our understanding of health and disease at the molecular level.
Multi-omics, a term at the forefront of contemporary biomedical research, represents a multifaceted approach that integrates diverse “omics” data types derived from various scientific domains. These data types encompass genomics, epigenomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, and metabolomics.
Each of these omics disciplines provides unique insights into different aspects of biological systems, and the advent of high-throughput technologies and advancements in data science has made it increasingly feasible to harness the collective power of these diverse data sources. The crux of multi-omics research lies in the integration of these diverse data types obtained from a single individual’s biological sample.
By doing so, researchers can construct a more comprehensive and holistic view of the molecular factors and cellular processes that underpin human health and disease. This approach has the potential to disentangle the complex interplay between genetic and non-genetic factors in health and disease, offering profound insights and applications, including the delineation of disease subtypes, the identification of biomarkers, and the discovery of drug targets.
Joannella Morales, Ph.D., a program director at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) actively involved in leading the consortium, emphasizes the primary objective of this groundbreaking initiative. Beyond the elucidation of insights into individual diseases, the consortium aims to develop scalable and universally applicable multi-omics research strategies.
Moreover, it seeks to devise methods for the analysis of extensive and intricate datasets. These strategies are expected to be widely adopted by other research groups, thus ensuring that the consortium’s work exerts broad and enduring impacts on clinical research. Approximately half of the allocated funds will be allocated to support the activities of six disease study sites.
These sites will focus on investigating a spectrum of conditions, including but not limited to fatty liver diseases, hepatocellular carcinoma, asthma, chronic kidney disease, and preeclampsia, among others. An essential aspect of these disease study sites is their commitment to enrolling research participants, with a particular emphasis on including individuals from ancestral backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in genomics research.
Additionally, these sites will collect comprehensive data concerning participants’ environments and social determinants of health. The amalgamation of this multi-omic data with environmental information holds the potential to provide a more exhaustive understanding of the myriad factors contributing to disease risk and clinical outcomes.
The biological specimens contributed by study participants will undergo processing at the omics production center. At this facility, high-throughput molecular assays will be deployed to generate a wealth of data spanning various omics domains, including genomics, epigenomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, and metabolomics.
The resultant datasets will offer molecular profiles representing both disease and non-disease states. Subsequently, the data analysis and coordination center will assimilate these extensive datasets into organized repositories. These datasets will be made accessible to the scientific community, fostering further research and discoveries in the realm of multi-omics.
Erin Ramos, Ph.D., M.P.H., Deputy Director of NHGRI’s Division of Genomic Medicine, underscores the transformative potential of multi-omics research. It is poised to lead the vanguard of biomedical research, significantly advancing our comprehension of disease onset and progression. In parallel, it holds the promise of providing invaluable insights for the design of treatments and the discovery of novel drug targets.
The establishment of the Multi-Omics for Health and Disease Consortium marks a pivotal step toward translating these prospects into tangible advances in the field. Over a span of five years, the consortium is projected to receive an aggregate funding allocation of approximately $50.3 million, contingent upon the availability of financial resources.
The funding for this ambitious endeavor is the product of a collaborative effort between NHGRI, the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). This collective commitment underscores the significance of multi-omics research in reshaping and revolutionizing our comprehension of human health and disease, offering unprecedented opportunities for innovative scientific exploration and discovery.