Reprinted with the kind permission of ME Action.
The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a total of $1.3 million for ME research to three teams led by Drs. Ian Lipkin and Mady Hornig, Nancy Klimas and Maureen Hanson, respectively.
In an unexpected move, the NIH gave $766,000 to Drs. Ian Lipkin and Mady Hornig and their team at the Center for Immunity and Infection at Columbia University, New York on August 14.
Dr. Lipkin, dubbed “the world’s most celebrated virus-hunter” by Discover magazine, has been famously frank about how his previous grant applications for his ME research — but not his other work — had been dealt with by the NIH.
In May 2014, he told journalist Mindy Kitei:
I have been in competition now twice to get [my ME research] funded, and the people there who reviewed me gave me abysmal scores. And the critiques of my work were unfair, and one of the people who critiqued my work said, in fact, that this is a psychosomatic illness. I was floored. I protested, and for reasons that are obscure to me this same individual wound up back on the study section, and I got a similar unfundable score. Am I upset about this? Absolutely.
Only four days after the grant was awarded, Cheryl Kitt, the Deputy Director of the Center for Scientific Review at NIH, claimed at the 18 August CFSAC meeting that research funding was low for ME because applications of sufficient quality were not being received.
The grant awarded to Drs. Hornig, Lipkin and their team is for a comparison of ME cases and controls in relation to the bacteria, fungi and viruses (the “microbiome”) in the oropharynx (throat), lower gastrointestinal tract (gut) and blood.
The study will use state-of-the-art methods for microbial surveillance and discovery, with enough participants to ensure a good chance of identifying differences between people with and without ME.
With the $750,000 crowdfunded by patients through the Microbe Discovery Project, this raises the total amount of funds for the microbiome study to over $1.5 million.
Two additional, large NIH grants have been awarded to ME researchers this year, both in April.
Dr Nancy Klimas’s group at the Nova Southeastern University in Florida received $320,000 to compare peripheral blood mononuclear cells in ME patients and healthy controls at three time points: before exercise challenge, at the peak of effort (VO2 max) and four hours after peak effort.
The study will use a genomic approach to identify biomarkers and possible targets for therapy.
Professor Maureen Hanson at Cornell University, New York, received $237,000 to examine energy generation pathways in peripheral blood mononuclear cells and isolated B, T, and NK cells. She will determine whether measures of energy metabolism in the cells correlate with the microbiomes and mitochondrial DNA composition of the ME patients and healthy controls.