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Vol. LX, No. 10
May 16, 2008

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NIH, Japanese Scientists Create Global Alliance for Pharmacogenomics

The directors of three NIH institutes and the leader of a Japanese science center have joined to create a Global Alliance for Pharmacogenomics. The effort, detailed in a letter of intent, aims to identify genetic factors that contribute to individual drug responses, including rare and dangerous side effects. The results will help pave the way for personalized medicine.

U.S. scientists joining the alliance are members of the NIH Pharmacogenetics Research Network, a consortium of research groups that study how genetic factors influence the way drugs work in and are handled by the body.

Japanese scientists in the alliance represent the newly created Center for Genomic Medicine, a component of the RIKEN Yokohama Institute that conducts high-throughput analyses of human genes involved in diseases and drug responses.  

Signers of the agreement include NIGMS director Dr. Jeremy Berg, NHLBI director Dr. Elizabeth Nabel, NCI director Dr. John Niederhuber and Dr. Yusuke Nakamura, director of the RIKEN Center for Genomic Medicine.

“We expect this international agreement to speed scientific discovery and the translation of results into improved treatments for cancer, heart disease and other serious conditions,” said NIH director Dr. Elias Zerhouni. “Ultimately, physicians worldwide will be able to tailor the treatment of each patient—one of the great frontiers of health care today.”

Initial projects will focus on:

  • Understanding genetic factors that influence the effectiveness of breast cancer treatments (aromatase inhibitors)
  • Determining the optimal length of treatment for two drugs used to treat early stage breast cancer (cyclophosphamide and either doxorubicin or paclitaxel)
  • Discovering new genetic factors linked to serious side effects from certain pancreatic cancer drugs (gemcitabine and bevacizumab)
  • Exploring how genes contribute to drug-induced long QT syndrome, an irregular heart rhythm that can cause sudden cardiac arrest
  • Working with the International Warfarin Consortium to tailor initial doses of the anti-clotting drug warfarin based on the genetic profiles of patients

The letter of intent is available at This site also includes acknowledgements of the research centers that provided DNA samples essential to perform the work.— NIHRecord Icon

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