U.Va. Receives $35.7 Million Grant Renewal from NIH for Multi-Institutional, Collaborative Research on Cell Migration

Sept. 21, 2006 -- The University of Virginia School of Medicine's Cell Migration Consortium grant has been renewed for five years. The $35.7 million "glue" grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), a part of the NIH, brings the total NIH funding to the project to more than $73 million. NIGMS originally conceived of the large-scale glue grants following consultations with leaders in the scientific community who emphasized the importance of confronting intractable biological problems with the expertise and input of large, multifaceted groups of scientists. This is the largest research grant from the NIH that the University of Virginia has ever received.

The Cell Migration Consortium, initiated and organized by University of Virginia School of Medicine researchers Alan "Rick" Horwitz, Ph.D., and J. Thomas Parsons, Ph.D., comprises nearly 40 researchers at 23 institutions across the globe. Cell migration is a process by which cells move in the body from embryonic development through adulthood. Because the movement of cells is also critical to the development of diseases like cancer, and because it plays a key role in tissue regeneration, understanding cell migration is at the forefront of medical research globally.

The consortium has already created a foundation of complex developmental and discovery-based research activities. It is now using these technologies to undertake challenges that could not be achieved by individual researchers. The consortium also is developing a new arsenal of biological tools, chemicals, technologies, and useful data. Discoveries are shared with the entire cell migration field.

"Because of this grant, researchers now have the platforms they need to do their work," Horwitz says.

Researchers are organized into several working groups - termed "initiatives" - each tackling a different aspect of the cell migration process. For example, the Discovery Initiative is identifying the functions of the major genes and proteins required for cell migration, while the Structure Initiative is determining how adhesion proteins assemble to form biologically active, multi-protein machines.

After five years, the consortium has accomplished a great deal but still has much work to do, says Horwitz. "The spinoffs of the consortium's work may not be immediately within the grasp of the public, but the foundations and advancements we have created for other researchers and in the consortium itself will be translated into new treatments in the near future," Parsons says.

"The Cell Migration Consortium has shown the value of the glue grant-it has brought together an interdisciplinary team of researchers to better understand the fundamental process of cell movement and to develop the tools that an entire community of researchers can use to further advance the field of cell migration," said Jeremy M. Berg, NIGMS Director. "We look forward to the many exciting advances this team will make over the next five years."