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  • The Genome's Path to a Cure for Crohn's

Crohn's Disease

GOALS

We support leading research institutions across the globe in an unprecedented effort to find a cure—and until then better treatments—for Crohn’s disease. Many of these projects bring scientists together in new collaborations to study different facets of the disease and incorporate the latest technologies and most recent scientific insights into their explorations. Across the program, nearly 100 Helmsley-funded investigators are working to understand both how human genetics and the gut microbiome can cause and exacerbate Crohn's disease, and bring those insights into the development of new treatments.

STRATEGIES

We seek to find a cure for Crohn's disease, and while awaiting that outcome, to find better therapeutic and prevention strategies. Our areas of grantmaking are focused in the following areas:

Research Networks

Due to the complexity of IBD, we are committed to fostering novel collaborations of leading scientists across the field. To date, Helmsley grants have assembled three groundbreaking research networks, all of which seek to bring the combined expertise and access to significant numbers of patients to the study of Crohn’s disease.

Intramural Research

Funds established at Harvard University, Mt. Sinai Medical Center (NY), and the Weizmann Institute of Science are allowing multidisciplinary teams of researchers at those institutions to test new scientific questions about the cause and progression of IBD.

Genetics of IBD

More than 170 regions on the genome are associated with higher risk for IBD, and if those genomic variants are identified, it will be easier to develop treatment drugs. It will also improve early detection and an ability to extract and isolate tumor cells from the bloodstream. Creating coordinated plans to explore and leverage new findings in genetics, we have awarded grants to the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America’s Geriatrics Initiative, and the Genetic, Environmental, and Microbial (GEM) Project of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada.

Information Technology

The research networks are each creating their own mechanisms for cataloging, accessing, and harnessing enormous amounts of data. In addition, the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America is using a Helmsley award to pilot new mechanisms for centralizing and standardizing data.

Research Training

The CCFA Genetics Initiative seeks to deliver validated pathway models of IBD disease mechanisms, new animal models for analysis and development, chemical probes of relevant pathways, new proteins and pathway targets, recruitment of new IBD investigators, and a tested paradigm for rapid analysis and cure for Crohn's disease. We support this ongoing development, and provide funds for the development of new and mid-career researchers in Crohn's disease through the CCFA Research Grants and Fellowship Program.

Microbiome Studies

Researchers have begun to recognize that the gut microbiome (the aggregate of microbes), their genomes, and their environmental interactions in the lower digestive tract play an important role in the development of Crohn's disease. Our grant to the CCFA Microbiome Initiative is using the latest generation of DNA sequencers to study the complex role that intestinal microbial communities play in IBD, and how that knowledge might translate into diagnostic and therapeutic tools.