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Dana-Farber receive $5.6 million grant to develop rapid countermeasures to infectious agents
Date:1/18/2011

BOSTON--Researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have received a $5.6 million grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Army Research Office (ARO) to develop transient immunity against known, unknown, naturally occurring, or engineered disease-causing pathogens. The ultimate goal is to develop a viable countermeasure to an unknown pathogen within seven days of receiving it in a laboratory.

Wayne A. Marasco, MD, PhD, of the Department of Cancer Immunology and AIDS at Dana-Farber and an associate professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, is the project's principal investigator.

Since the mid 1990's, DARPA's Defense Sciences Office has pioneered advances across the full spectrum of bio-warfare defense needs, including the development of advanced diagnostics and medical therapies that are active against an entire range of infectious agents.

"This grant will support revolutionary advances in rapid response to naturally evolving and engineered pathogens," says Marasco. "DARPA has issued a challenge to develop a treatment to unknown threats in just seven days, and we are excited about the opportunity to meet this challenge."

Disease-causing pathogens can be spread through natural and intentional means. Factors responsible for the increase in newly emerging and re-emerging pathogens include increased animal-human interface, increased population densities and international travel, climate change as it affects migration of animals such as birds, some of which could be disease carriers and the narrowing of genetic diversity among food animal stocks.

In addition, the proliferation of genetic engineering technologies that can be easily redirected from beneficent to offensive purposes, and the covert biological sabotage of food animals are all great biodefense concerns.

"In the past, medical responses to large-scale disease outbreaks have been very slow," said Marasco. "Often i
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Contact: Bill Schaller
william_schaller@dfci.harvard.edu
617-632-5357
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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