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The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, today announced that it has recently made several dozen awards to further strengthen the nations biodefense and emerging disease research capabilities. The new awards include grants totaling approximately $87 million for the construction of four biosafety level-3 (BSL-3) laboratories as well as two five-year contracts totaling approximately $60 million to support the development of a vaccine against tularemia, a potential agent of bioterror.
Devising medical countermeasures against biological threats, whether they arise naturally or are the result of deliberate human action, is a top priority for NIAID, says NIAID director Anthony S. Fauci, MD. These new awards support research needed to better understand and defend against disease-causing microbes and provide funds to construct facilities where such research can be performed safely.
Regional Biocontainment Laboratories
The four new labs will join nine other NIAID-funded BSL-3 labs in the Institutes Regional Biocontainment Laboratory (RBL) program. In 2002, a panel of experts convened to provide guidance to NIAID on its biodefense agenda cited insufficient BSL-3 and BSL-4 space as a major barrier to research progress. As part of its response, NIAID established the RBL program to fund the design, construction and commissioning of state-of-the-art BSL-3 labs at sites spanning the country. The institutions receiving the new awards and the principal investigators are as follows:
George Mason University, Manassas, Va./ Charles Bailey, PhD
Tufts University, North Grafton, Mass./ Sawkat Anwer, DMVH, PhD
University of Louisville, Ky./ Nancy Martin, PhD
University of Hawaii at Manoa/ James Gaines, PhD
Tularemia Vaccine Contracts
Two contracts totaling approximately $60 million have been awarded to the University of New Mexico (C. Rick Lyons, MD, principal investigator) and to DVC LLC, Frederick, Md. (Robert House, PhD, principal investigator) to support research to identify and evaluate new tularemia vaccine candidates. Tularemia, a bacterial disease, is also known as rabbit fever; symptoms include high fever, chills, aches and swollen lymph glands. Tularemia usually can be successfully treated with antibiotics. However, the bacterium that causes tularemia is regarded by experts as a potential agent of bioterror because, if aerosolized, it could cause widespread cases of more serious disease, including severe respiratory illness and systemic infections, and even death.
Additional Biodefense Research Awards
In addition to those described above, NIAIDs Fiscal Year 2005 biodefense awards include
-- Challenge Grant program awards to support further development of previously identified therapeutics, vaccines, and diagnostics against NIAID Category A, B and C priority pathogens including anthrax, smallpox and viruses that cause pandemic influenza
-- Cooperative Research program awards to stimulate research requiring multidisciplinary effort to advance promising candidate vaccines, therapeutics and other products through the product development pathway
-- Small Business Biodefense program awards
Source: National Institutes of Health