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NIAID announces new human immunology research awards to help fight emerging infectious diseases

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, has awarded approximately $208 million to two programs that support research to better understand the human immune response to emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, including those that may be introduced into a community through acts of bioterrorism.

The grants were awarded to the Cooperative Centers for Translational Research on Human Immunology and Biodefense (CCHI) and the Immune Mechanisms of Virus Control (IMVC), NIAID also has received approximately $21 million under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to supplement these two programs and fund some additional researchers. This funding is part of the $5 billion awarded by NIH in FY 2009 for research projects under the Recovery Act.

The long-term goal of the CCHI and IMVC programs is to identify new vaccines and drug targets.

"A better understanding of how the human immune system responds to these infections should provide new approaches for developing prevention tools and therapeutics," says Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of NIAID, the lead Institute at NIH responsible for immunology and biodefense research.

The CCHI program, established in 2003, focuses on basic research and preclinical research of potential benefit to humans. CCHI research will include developing new vaccines to protect against infectious diseases such as influenza, dengue fever, anthrax and hepatitis C; understanding how immune protection is achieved; and determining how harmless microorganisms in the lungs, intestines and other mucosal surfaces protect against harmful microbes that enter the body through these sites.

The following eight investigators have been awarded a total of approximately $130 million over the next five years under the CCHI program:

  • Rafi Ahmed, Ph.D., Emory University, Atlanta
  • Jacques Banchereau, Ph.D., Baylor Research Institute, Dallas
  • Raymond Chung, M.D., Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston
  • Kenneth Coggeshall, Ph.D., Okalahoma Medical Research Foundation, Oklahoma City
  • Mark Davis, Ph.D., Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif.
  • Anne de Groot, M.D., University of Rhode Island, Providence
  • Alan Rothman, M.D., University of Massachusetts Medical Center, Worcester
  • Marcelo Sztein, M.D., University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore

The following investigator has received two-year funding through the Recovery Act to participate in the CCHI program:

  • Donald Burke, M.D., University of Pittsburgh

The following investigators have received one year of supplemental Recovery Act funding in addition to their CCHI program funding:

  • Rafi Ahmed, Ph.D., Emory University, Atlanta
  • Jacques Banchereau, Ph.D., Baylor Research Institute, Dallas
  • Mark Davis, Ph.D., Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif.

The IMVC program builds on a set of exploratory grants awarded in 2007. The current phase is a substantially larger effort that addresses key questions related to how the immune system responds to viruses.

IMVC investigators will use animal models and conduct studies in people to understand all aspects of the immune response to viruses, including early immune responses (innate, or inborn, immunity) and antibody and immune cell memory responses that protect against repeat infections (adaptive immunity). Since cells of mucosal tissue comprise the primary barrier to many viruses, mucosal immunity in the gut or lungs also will be studied.

Some specific IMVC projects include studying how the immune response in the brain combats rabies virus infection; identifying immune markers that correlate with surviving Ebola infection; and finding new drugs to treat viral infections.

The following 14 investigators have been awarded a total of approximately $78 million over the next five years under the IMVC program:

  • Glen Barber, Ph.D., University of Miami School of Medicine
  • Thomas Braciale, M.D., Ph.D., University Of Virginia, Charlottesville
  • David Brooks, Ph.D., University of California Los Angeles
  • Michael Gale, Ph.D., University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle
  • Douglas Hooper, Ph.D., Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia
  • Curt Horvath, Ph.D., Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill.
  • Jae Jung, Ph.D., University of Southern California, Los Angeles
  • Robert Mason, M.D., National Jewish Medical and Research Center, Denver
  • Andrew Mellor, Ph.D., Medical College of Georgia, Augusta
  • Elke Muehlberger, Ph.D., Boston University School of Medicine
  • Luis Sigal, Ph.D., Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia
  • E. John Wherry, Ph.D., The Wistar Institute, Philadelphia
  • Yiping Yang, M.D., Ph.D., Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C.
  • Allan Zajac, Ph.D., University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham

The following four awardees have received Recovery Act funding and will participate in the IMVC program for two years:

  • Joan Durbin, M.D., Children's Research Institute, Columbus, Ohio
  • Emilio Flano, Ph.D., Children's Research Institute, Columbus, Ohio
  • Gregg Milligan, Ph.D., University of Texas Med. Branch, Galveston
  • Thomas Moran, Ph.D., Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York

"Developing vaccines and treatments for emerging pathogens continues to be a priority for NIAID," says Daniel Rotrosen, M.D., director of the NIAID Division of Allergy, Immunology and Transplantation. "The CCHI and IMVC programs will foster collaboration among many talented investigators working toward the common goal of understanding the human immune response to infectious diseases and developing more effective measures to prevent and treat infection."


Contact: Julie Wu
NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

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