HERCULES Exposome Research Center receives $7.5 million grant renewal from NIH

May 30, 2017
Gary Miller

The HERCULES Exposome Research Center based in the Emory University Rollins School of Public Health has received a $7.5 million renewal in funding for the next five years from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  

"This award isn't just about renewing one grant," says Gary W. Miller, PhD, director of HERCULES and Asa Griggs Candler Professor and associate dean for research at the Rollins School of Public Health. "It is renewing a grant that supports a number of other high-impact centers and research projects across Emory University. This renewal will have international implications as HERCULES expands its research areas and grows the scope of its projects." 

HERCULES was established in 2013 to explore the ways in which the exposome—the study of environmental exposures and associated biological responses on human health over the course of a lifetime—impacts health and disease. HERCULES is one of 20 designated National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Environmental Core Centers in the United States. As such, it functions as a collaborative environmental health research center that works with various projects, scientists, and schools (Georgia Tech is a regular collaborator) to advance environmental health research and to contribute to the goals of NIEHS's strategic plan.

"In the last four years, HERCULES has made a substantial impact as a center and has emerged as a global leader for exposome research," says James Curran, MD, dean of the Rollins School of Public Health. "Through this center's leadership, the exposome can help propel environmental health back into the forefront of the biomedical and health care fields."

Since its inception, the center has laid the groundwork for a number of research cores, projects and events. A few highlights include: 

  • Serving 45 investigators in the center's research cores
  • Developing the Emory Exposome Summer Course (which attracted 150 people from seven countries)
  • Assisting with the establishment of the NIEHS P50 Children's Environmental Health Center and the NIEHS U2C Children's Health Exposure Analysis Resource Laboratory Hub
  • Helping to build Emory's alliance with Amazon Web Services
  • Authoring the only book about exposome research- The Exposome: A Primer by Gary W. Miller
  • Building relationships with the Atlanta community and providing 15 $2,500 mini-grants to local organizations that are addressing environmental health concerns 

This renewed funding will also enable the center to pursue a number of priority projects. A few of these include developing an exposome workbench (a virtual cloud-based database); creating an environmental health community-based participatory research course; developing an analytical platform that will allow researchers to conduct a comprehensive analysis of environmental exposures in humans; and initiating the C. elegans exposome project to map the entire metabolome of this laboratory worm species to test the ways they react to various exposures.

Emory's Rollins School of Public Health will host the annual meeting of the NIEHS P30 directors June 7-9, 2017. Attendees will include NIEHS Director Linda S. Birnbaum, PhD, and center directors from 20 universities and colleges across the country.