NIAID Awards Contracts to Search for
Protein Markers of Disease
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID),
part of the National Institutes of Health, has awarded two five-year
contracts to establish Clinical Proteomics Centers for Infectious
Diseases and Biodefense. The contracts were awarded to the University
of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), Galveston, and to the Canadian
firm Caprion Proteomics, Montreal. Researchers at the centers will
analyze human blood and other tissue samples from completed or
ongoing clinical studies with the aim of discovering proteins that
could serve as biomarkers of infectious disease.
A biomarker is a measurable biological substance that acts as
an indicator of either health or disease. One biomarker test now
used by doctors is the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test
for prostate cancer screening. Elevated levels of PSA protein in
the blood may signal the presence of cancerous cells in the prostate
Scientists at the new NIAID-funded centers will look for proteins
produced by disease-causing agents or by the immune system in response
to infection. "Identifying specific biomarkers that are present
in infected people — but absent in uninfected people — would
give researchers new leads in understanding how microbes cause
disease and how the body reacts to those microbes," says Maureen
Beanan, Ph.D., a program officer in NIAID's Division of Microbiology
and Infectious Diseases. This, in turn, could guide development
of diagnostics, therapies or vaccines, she adds.
The first two diseases to be studied at the new centers will be
dengue fever, a viral illness spread by mosquitoes, and brucellosis,
a bacterial disease that can cause severe influenza-like symptoms.
Once discovered and characterized, any candidate biomarkers found
by the centers' scientists will be made freely available to the
research community at large for further development.
The centers also will encourage clinical infectious disease researchers
from other institutions to submit clinical samples to be assessed
for the presence of potential biomarker proteins, notes Dr. Beanan.
This service will be provided at no charge to the requestors.
The five-year contract to UTMB is estimated to be up to $10.9
million. The five-year contract to Caprion Proteomics is estimated
to be up to $12.9 million.
Besides the new clinical proteomics centers, NIAID has established
numerous research resources in the areas of bioinformatics, functional
and structural genomics, and gene and protein sequencing. Together,
these resources are assisting scientists to better understand interactions
between disease-causing organisms and the human immune response.
For more information about these resources, see http://www3.niaid.nih.gov/topics/pathogenGenomics.
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.