Enormous amounts of information can be gleaned from comprehensively characterizing thousands of the chemical byproducts of metabolism called metabolites. Metabolomics offers new ways for researchers to detect disease, monitor disease progression and response to therapy, stratify patients based on biochemical profiles, and identify new biomarkers and drug targets. A major roadblock in metabolomics research, however, is that researchers often do not have access to the metabolite standards they need to confirm and quantify their results.
“Currently, more than half of all human metabolites are unavailable, and many metabolites have never been synthesized or their structures have only been speculated, and therefore these important molecules are not available to researchers,” said Mary Tanga, Ph.D., director of the Center for Chemical Biology in SRI Biosciences and principal investigator of SRI’s Metabolite Standards Synthesis Center. “Researchers can pursue the answers to important questions if they actually have the compounds. The reference standards that SRI scientists will synthesize are critical to advances in metabolomics.”
SRI’s Metabolite Standards Synthesis Center will begin to fill the gap by creating a library of thousands of metabolites that will be made available to the scientific community. Synthesized metabolites function as standards for research and are critical for confirming the identity of previously unknown components in biological samples such as blood or urine. Studies of these small molecule metabolites will improve understanding of disease processes, reveal new biomarkers of disease, and provide new ways of monitoring therapeutic outcomes.
The SRI contract is part of a multicomponent program developed by the NIH Common Fund Metabolomics Program. The overall goal of the program is to increase metabolomics research capacity in the United States by supporting infrastructure expansion, training, technology development, and reference standards synthesis.
Requests for compound synthesis should be submitted to the Metabolomics Workbench. Upon NIH approval, SRI chemists will prepare sufficient material for the original requester and future projects.