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Mother Nature and bioterrorists: Rochester battles both with $11.9 million award
Date:11/10/2010

Flu viruses are a great threat, whether they stem from Mother Nature or are modified by human hands to create a deadly bioweapon. The University of Rochester Medical Center will tackle both scenarios head on with a five-year contract, totaling approximately $11.9 million, from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The contract will further research into how we can use computer modeling to find ways of boosting human immune responses against and identify new areas of investigation into treatments for a variety of potentially lethal viruses.

"This type of research is extremely important because it is going to make the United States better, stronger and faster at developing new vaccines and therapies for flu infections that we don't yet have vaccines for," said Martin Zand, M.D., Ph.D., co-director of the Center for Biodefense Immune Modeling and medical director of Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Programs at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

Throughout the five year contract, researchers will design mathematical models and simulation tools to study how the immune system responds to flu vaccines, attempting to uncover why some people have a good response to a vaccine and others don't. Using data from mice and humans, they hope to use these models to simulate different flu scenarios and test medical interventions that might be developed to limit the extent of a dangerous flu infection in people.

"The wonderful thing about models is that we can get some idea of how a virus might evade the immune system, how the immune system might respond, and how we can enhance the immune response without ever having to create or live through a pandemic or bioterrorist attack," Zand noted.

The contract is a five-year renewal of the Center for Biodefense Immune Modeling at the Medical Center, which was initially funded with a $10 million contract in 2005 as
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Contact: Emily Boynton
emily_boynton@urmc.rochester.edu
585-273-1757
University of Rochester Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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