BAR HARBOR, Maine — A new federal grant of more than $1 million awarded to the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory will help biomedical researchers keep track of how chemicals in the environment might affect human health, lab officials indicated in a statement released Wednesday.
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences is awarding the grant of $1.28 million to MDI Bio Lab over a five-year period. The funding will be used to increase the amount of data available in the Comparative Toxicogenomics Database, a free online public database established at the lab in 2004.
Information that will be added to the database consists of studies that help reveal what kind of chemicals people are exposed to in their everyday lives at work and home, lab officials indicated.
The database, they said, “was developed to explore the health effects of the many thousands of chemicals currently in use, providing information culled from scientific publications about interactions between chemicals, genes and diseases.”
Lab officials have indicated that the database currently provides unique data for 6,000 chemicals, 18,000 genes, 5,000 diseases and more than 1 million interactions between them. In 2009, the database served more than 370,000 users around the world.
Dr. Carolyn Mattingly of the lab’s research staff indicated in the release that the grant will help provide users of the database with “perspective on which of the thousands of chemicals now in use are more prevalent or may pose more of an exposure risk.”
Mattingly said in the statement that, for example, the database includes 3,000 chemicals that may have a link to breast cancer.
“By including these new data sets, we can help users determine which of these chemicals are more likely to pose real exposure risks,” she said. “This insight can help to prioritize environmental chemical studies.”
According to Jerilyn Bowers, spokeswoman for MDI Bio Lab, part of the grant will be used to fund a position at the lab that will be used to incorporate existing data on the subject into the database. The number of exposure studies currently available is relatively small, lab officials said, which will allow lab staff to add new studies to the database as they are published.
U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins released a joint statement in which they said the grant will help the lab remain at the forefront of the national biomedical research community.
“This grant funding will support continued advanced research and medical breakthroughs that will improve the lives of all Americans,” the senators wrote in the statement.
The grant follows on the heels of a similar $882,000 grant the lab received last month from pharmaceutical company Pfizer. The Pfizer grant is geared toward using the same database to research 1,500 chemical compounds that could be useful in the development of new medical drugs, lab officials have indicated in a separate release.
According to lab officials, the Pfizer grant will help researchers find possible uses for pharmaceutical products and will help predict drug toxicity.
The database can be accessed online at http://ctd.mdibl.org.
More information about MDI Bio Lab is available on the Internet at www.mdibl.org.
For more information about expanding programs at MDI Bio Lab go to http://bit.ly/i6u7G7.