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New programs exploring novel approaches to cell-to-cell communication and understanding undiagnosed diseases, which represent challenges or scientific opportunities for a wide array of health research, are the latest priorities for the National Institutes of Health Common Fund. The funding was announced today by NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., after he received broad community input and recommendations from institute and center directors at NIH. The Common Fund targets strategic investments that have the potential for rapid and significant impact. The programs are scheduled to begin during fiscal year 2013.

The Undiagnosed Diseases Program (UDP) will provide a new network of medical research centers focused on the discovery, diagnosis, and ultimately care of undiagnosed patients by capitalizing on recent advances in genomics and the infusion of basic researchers in clinical projects.

The Common Fund’s Extracellular RNA Communication program will explore new ways in which cells communicate with each other using extracellular ribonucleic acids (RNAs) — RNAs that are present in the space outside of and between cells. The program will provide foundational information about the synthesis, distribution, uptake, and function of extracellular RNAs that are involved in cell-to-cell communication that is critical for basic cell function and health.

The NIH Common Fund supports goal-driven, research networks in which investigators generate data to solve technological problems, and/or otherwise pilot resources and tools that will be stimulatory to the broader research community. The research products of Common Fund programs are expected to catalyze disease-specific research supported by the NIH Institutes and Centers.

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