DHHS, NIH News  
National Institute of Allergy and
Infectious Diseases (NIAID)

For Immediate Release
Monday, June 8, 2009

Anne A. Oplinger

NIAID Renews Funding for National Emerging Infectious Diseases Research Network
ARRA Provides Two-Year Supplementary Funding

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, today announced renewed funding for 10 previously established Regional Centers of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases Research (RCE). NIAID also awarded funds to Oregon Health & Science University to establish a new RCE to be based in the Pacific Northwest. NIAID funding for the 11 RCEs totals up to approximately $455 million over five years.

NIAID also intends to augment research in the RCEs with funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The institute expects to award up to an additional $20 million in the next two years to worthy RCE-based projects. Projects receiving Recovery Act funds must be completed within two years and must demonstrate a high likelihood of delivering significant advances in that time period.

"The Regional Centers of Excellence are a critical component of our national research infrastructure for infectious diseases, and are designed to respond flexibly to changing scientific needs and priorities, says NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. "Research studies conducted by the RCEs are central to our efforts to develop countermeasures against both endemic and emergent diseases."

Among many projects, RCE researchers are developing new or improved ways to treat, diagnose or prevent illnesses including anthrax, West Nile fever, plague, dengue fever and other emerging infectious diseases. The RCEs also are prepared to provide scientific expertise to first responders in an infectious-disease-related emergency, whether such an emergency arises naturally or through an act of bioterrorism.

An interim evaluation of the RCEs during the first five years of their existence found that the institutions were meeting the goals of the program. "The research accomplishments of RCE-based scientists have been excellent," says Carole Heilman, Ph.D., director of NIAIDís Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases. "Importantly, RCE researchers are collaborating extensively and are bringing new investigators into the field of biodefense and emerging infectious disease research."

As measured by publications in highly cited scientific journals, the recent evaluation showed that the centers are achieving their goals of increasing basic knowledge about NIAID-designated Category A, B and C priority pathogens. Priority pathogens include disease organisms, such as plague-causing bacteria, that could be used agents of bioterror as well as microbes such as dengue virus, which pose a large public health burden. The evaluation also showed the centers are contributing to the development of countermeasures such as diagnostics, therapies and vaccines.

"A hallmark of the RCE system is its capacity to tailor research efforts to emerging health issues," notes Dr. Heilman. For example, in 2008, scientists used RCE research resources to develop a new method for rapidly producing human monoclonal antibodies targeted against seasonal influenza virus strains. Monoclonal antibodies could serve as therapy for influenza infections, including, perhaps, newly emerging strains of influenza. RCE-based scientists also assisted the international health community in responding to an outbreak of Marburg hemorrhagic fever in Angola by quickly adapting an existing technology for use in diagnosing Marburg virus infection. During an outbreak of E. coli (a food-borne infection) in the United States in 2006 researchers at an RCE institution assisted in the response by rapidly redirecting funds and personnel to sequence genes of the E. coli strains believed responsible for the outbreak.

The 11 RCEs are distributed across 10 regions of the United States. The first eight RCEs were established in 2003; two more were added in 2005. Each center comprises a lead institution and affiliated academic institutions.

U.S. map of all RCE institutions and regions
U.S. map of all RCE institutions and regions.

Region I
Harvard Medical School
New England Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases
Principal Investigator: Dr. Dennis Kasper

Region II
Columbia University
Northeast Biodefense Center
Principal Investigator: Dr. W. Ian Lipkin

Region III
University of Maryland, Baltimore
Mid-Atlantic Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases
Principal Investigator: Dr. Myron Levine

Region IV
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Southeast Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases
Principal Investigator: Dr. Fred Sparling

Region V
University of Chicago
Great Lakes Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases
Principal Investigator: Dr. Olaf Schneewind

Region VI
University of Texas Medical Branch
Western Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases
Principal Investigator: Dr. David Walker

Region VII
Washington University
Midwest Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases
Principal Investigator: Dr. Samuel Stanley

Region VIII
Colorado State University (Fort Collins)
Rocky Mountain Regional Center of Excellence
Principal Investigator: Dr. John Belisle

Region IX
University of California, Irvine
Pacific-Southwest Regional Center of Excellence
Principal Investigator: Dr. Alan G. Barbour

Region X
Oregon Health & Science University
Pacific Northwest Regional Center of Excellence
Principal Investigator: Dr. Jay Nelson

Region X
University of Washington
Northwest Regional Center of Excellence
for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious
Diseases Research
Principal Investigator: Dr. Samuel Miller

In addition to supporting investigator-directed research and providing scientific expertise when called upon in an emergency, all the RCEs also

  • 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 the region and network
  • Make available core facilities to approved investigators from academia, government, biotech companies and the pharmaceutical industry

NIAID conducts and supports research — at NIH, throughout the United States, and worldwide — to study the causes of infectious and immune-mediated diseases, and to develop better means of preventing, diagnosing and treating these illnesses. News releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on the NIAID Web site at http://www.niaid.nih.gov.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.
NIAID Press Release, Researchers Find Quick Way to Make Human Monoclonal
Antibodies against Flu. April 30, 2008 http://www3.niaid.nih.gov/news/newsreleases/2008/humanMonoclonal.htm

Concept Systems, Inc. RCE Program Interim Evaluation: Report on the First Five Years of the Regional Centers of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases Research (RCE) Program. Feb. 2008
Some activities described in this release are being funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). More information about NIHís ARRA grant funding opportunities can be found at http://grants.nih.gov/recovery/. To track the progress of HHS activities funded through the ARRA, visit www.hhs.gov/recovery. To track all federal funds provided through the ARRA, visit www.recovery.gov.

NIH logo   Home > News & Events
Subscribe to receive future NIH news releases.