The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, today announced four-year grants totaling approximately $80 million for two new Regional Centers of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases Research (RCE). The grants to the University of California, Irvine, and Colorado State University (Fort Collins) mark the completion of a national network of academic centers that conducts research to counter threats from bioterror agents and emerging infectious diseases. Each institution will receive approximately $10 million per year for the next four years to head a regional research consortium. The RCE network was identified as a national priority in the 2002 NIAID Biodefense Research Agenda.
Since before the 2001 anthrax attacks, the United States has been at risk for a bioterror attack. With these grants, a key element of our strategic plan to counter bioterrorism and emerging infectious diseases is now complete, says Anthony S. Fauci, MD, director of NIAID. Our network is working diligently to uncover new knowledge and create preventive, therapeutic and diagnostic tools that will leave us far less vulnerable.
NIAID established the RCE network in 2003 with grants to eight institutions. Each institution also leads an RCE consortium made up of universities and other research institutions within its geographic region. The network conducts research that will lead to next-generation treatments, vaccines and diagnostic tools for diseases such as anthrax, plague, smallpox, tularemia, botulism and West Nile fever.
University of California, Irvine, principal investigator Alan G. Barbour, MD, will head a consortium whose members include four additional University of California campuses and 11 other regional universities and research institutions.
Colorado State University principal investigator Barry J. Beaty, PhD, will head a consortium whose members include five other universities plus small business partners; it also includes substantial collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The addition of these two new RCEs expands the networks scientific reach to cover some poorly understood diseases and new research needs. For example, researchers in the new centers have expertise in equine encephalitis and other viral diseases that can be transmitted to people by mosquitoes. The centers also add expertise in hantaviruses, as well as in the development of diagnostics and animal models of disease.
Each consortium within the network will support investigator-directed research; train researchers and other personnel for biodefense research activities; create and maintain supporting resources, including scientific equipment and trained support personnel, for use by other researchers within in the region and network; emphasize research focused on development and testing of vaccines, therapeutic and diagnostic concepts; make available core facilities to approved investigators from academia, government, biotech companies and the pharmaceutical industry; and provide facilities and scientific support to first responders in the event of a national biodefense emergency.
The previously established RCEs in the network are led by Duke University, Harvard Medical School, New York State Department of Health, University of Chicago, University of Maryland, University of Texas Medical Branch (Galveston), University of Washington and Washington University in St. Louis.
Source: National Institutes of Health