Metabolomics is the study of low molecular weight molecules or metabolites found within cells and biological systems. The metabolome is a measure of the inputs and outputs of biological pathways and, as such, is often considered more representative of the functional state of a cell than other ‘omics measures such as genomics or proteomics. In addition, many metabolites are conserved across various animal species, facilitating the extrapolation of research findings in laboratory animals to humans. Common technologies for measuring the metabolome include mass spectrometry (MS) and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR), which can detect hundreds to thousands of unique chemical entities (UCE).
In order for the full potential of metabolomics to be realized, the Common Fund Metabolomics Program was initiated in 2012. The program is meant to increase the national capacity for metabolomics and to catalyze research by creating new tools, infrastructure, and data to fuel this relatively new field of study.
The Common Fund Metabolomics Program is increasing the national research capacity through the following program components:
Comprehensive Metabolomics Resource Cores
Goal: To create National Comprehensive Metabolomics Resource Cores, expanding on existing nationally funded metabolomics resources. Six Regional Comprehensive Metabolomics Resource Cores (RCMRCs) have been funded through this program, allowing these institutions to expand and improve their capacity to conduct comprehensive metabolomics studies by adding and improving instrumentation, expanding faculty expertise, and developing new training programs to meet the need for expertise.
Training in Metabolomics
Goal: To increase the number of investigators with metabolomics expertise by supporting interdisciplinary training involving a diverse set of training vehicles that match career stage and goals. This initiative is supporting early and mid-career development awards with an emphasis on encouraging collaborations between basic and clinical investigators in addition to hands-on and online courses and workshops in metabolomics.
Metabolomics Technology Development
Goal: To address current limitations in metabolomics technologies so they can be easily adopted by other laboratories. Areas being addressed include optimizing the extraction, separation, detection and identification of metabolites; through the development of standardized experimental methodology, chemical probes, integrated devices and computational tools and approaches.
Metabolomics Reference Standards Synthesis
Goal: To increase the repertoire of chemically identifiable metabolites through the synthesis of reliable metabolic standards. Data generated from these standards can be deposited into existing databases to expand the identities of the metabolite repertoire and serve as a resource for the entire metabolomics community.
Data Sharing and International Collaboration
Goal: To provide a platform for the sharing of raw metabolomics data and to promote international collaboration in metabolomics. The program has created the Metabolomics Workbench, a website for publically available metabolomics data as well as access to metabolite standards, protocols, tutorials, training, and more. International collaboration is being promoted through the use of agreed upon standards for uploading data and a common interface, the MetabolomeXchange.