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About Sickkids
About SickKids

September 29, 2011

Scientific Consortium awarded $34 million from the National Institutes of Health

The Toronto Centre for Phenogenomics, a research facility of The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), will benefit from grants awarded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The NIH announced $34million in grants to the DTCC Consortium, which is formed by the Toronto Centre for Phenogenomics, University of California Davis, Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, and Charles River Laboratories. The money will be used to fund the Consortium’s participation in the second phase of the NIH Knockout Mouse Project (KOMP2).

“In this consortium, we have assembled world experts in mouse stem cell biology, genetics, breeding, and phenotype analysis, who are dedicated to ensuring the successful outcome of KOMP2, on-time and on-budget,” says Dr. Kent Lloyd from the University of California Davis, Principal Investigator and Project Director of the DTCC KOMP2 project.

Researchers use knockout mouse models because 94% of genes in mice have a similar gene in humans. A knockout mouse is a research model in which a specific gene has been disrupted. The resulting loss of the gene’s function can often be linked to a change in phenotype (observable characteristics such as appearance, behavior or biological function). These observations can help researchers determine which genes are linked to certain normal biological functions or disease. “To understand how our genes function normally and in disease, we will study the developmental problems and diseases in unique animal models that have different abnormal or mutated genes,” says Dr. Colin McKerlie, Senior Associate Scientist at SickKids and a Co-PI on the grant. “This will enable us to determine the effect of each mutation and whether the gene or the protein it produces could be a target for drugs or be used to diagnose disease. This support from NIH leverages our capabilities and project already funded by Genome Canada in Toronto to have truly international impact.”

KOMP2 is part of a global initiative to create a repository of knockout mouse lines and phenotype data which researchers will then use to develop better models of human diseases such as cancer, heart disease, neurological disorders, diabetes and obesity. The goal of the first phase of the global initiative was to create a mutation in embryonic stem cells for each of the approximately 21 ,000 protein-coding genes in the mouse genome, which would allow researchers to determine the role of each gene in normal physiology and development. KOMP1 successfully completed work on 8,500 genes and the majority of the remaining genes will be completed by scientists in Europe and Canada.

In KOMP2, 2,500 of the mouse embryonic stem cells created in the first phase will be used to establish and breed mouse lines which will then be phenotyped. All of the mouse lines and phenotype data will be accessible to researchers around the globe. Model creation and phenotyping expertise will be provided by the University of California Davis, Toronto Centre for Phenogenomics, and Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute; Charles River will provide large-scale production expertise for the mouse models.