St. Jude to receive $12 million in grants from NIH

Funding will enable St. Jude scientists to find new ways of improving therapy for children with leukemia and other life-threatening diseases

Memphis, Tennessee, July 8, 2015

Mary Relling, PharmD

Investigators at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital have received grants totaling more than $12 million from the National Institutes of Health’s Pharmacogenomics Research Network (PGRN) for a new Center for Precision Medicine in Leukemia and for the Clinical Pharmacogenetics Implementation Consortium.

“This funding is essential for bringing together experts in pharmacogenomics and leukemia therapy for collaboration,” said the PGRN’s new chair, Mary Relling, Pharm.D., who also chairs the Pharmaceutical Sciences Department at St. Jude. “Individually, we are all doing great work, but with this funding, we can work together to improve medication therapy for patients with leukemia and other diseases.”

St. Jude received one of three P50 grants awarded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to establish specialized research centers for pharmacogenomics in precision medicine.

The NIGMS has awarded a Center for Precision Medicine in Leukemia to Relling and co-principal investigator Mignon Loh, M.D., division chief of Pediatric Hematology Oncology at University of California San Francisco. The center aims to find cures for acute leukemia by translating genomics into more effective and less toxic treatment. Scientists in the center also intend to provide a paradigm for other diseases by integrating rapidly changing genomic methods and knowledge into precision medicine.

Relling co-leads the Clinical Pharmacogenetics Implementation Consortium with Teri Klein, Ph.D., director of PharmGKB, Stanford University. The consortium’s goal is to provide up-to-date clinical guidelines for specific genes and drugs and to facilitate the use of genetic testing to guide prescribing of medications.       

“These grants are key elements of the NIH Pharmacogenomics Research Network, a network of scientific groups focused on understanding how a person’s genes affect his or her responses to medicines,” said NIGMS’ Rochelle M. Long, Ph.D., who directs the program. “The new centers will pursue a range of basic, clinical and translational research that will contribute to a fundamental understanding of how to use drugs safely and effectively, which is an important aspect of precision medicine."

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is leading the way the world understands, treats and cures childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases. It is the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center devoted solely to children. Treatments developed at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to 80 percent since the hospital opened more than 50 years ago. St. Jude freely shares the breakthroughs it makes, and every child saved at St. Jude means doctors and scientists worldwide can use that knowledge to save thousands more children. Families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing and food — because all a family should worry about is helping their child live. To learn more, visit stjude.org or follow the hospital on Twitter and Instagram at @stjuderesearch.