|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, March 14, 2002
Contact: Sam Perdue|
NIAID Unveils Bioterrorism Research Agenda
- Microbial biology. Increased basic research will help scientists acquire comprehensive information on the biology and disease-causing mechanisms of potential bioterror pathogens. Such information, which includes sequencing of each microbe's genome, will provide the information needed to develop new drugs and vaccines to combat possible bioterrorism-caused diseases.
- Human immune response. Increased research on the basic components of the human immune system will enable scientists to develop safe and potent vaccines, highly accurate diagnostic tests, and broadly acting drugs that boost overall immunity to a range of pathogens.
- Vaccines. Vaccines are one of the most effective ways to protect people from infectious diseases, and accelerated research on new vaccines is underway. New Ebola and anthrax vaccines will soon enter human testing, and research on improved smallpox and tularemia vaccines is ongoing. Additional research has been conducted on ways to stretch current smallpox vaccine stockpiles for the short term.
- Treatments. The increase in antibiotic resistance among bacteria and the relative scarcity of effective antiviral drugs make treatment research imperative. Scientists will use information gained from basic studies of a microbe's biology and genetic makeup to develop compounds that specifically destroy that organism or its toxins. Research on new treatments for pathogens such as smallpox and anthrax are currently underway.
- Diagnostics. An effective response against a bioterrorist attack requires rapid, accurate identification of both natural and bioengineered microbes. Information on a pathogen's sensitivity to available drugs will also help doctors quickly treat anyone who has become infected. New early warning and diagnostic tests are a key part of NIAID's bioterrorism research agenda.
- Research resources. Research on the five general areas above requires a broad range of resources including genomic information, novel reagents, animal models of disease, and high-containment laboratories and clinical facilities. NIAID will provide those resources in part by building the necessary facilities, establishing collaborations with industry, and training new scientists with varying expertise.
Many goals presented in the Research Agenda build on the results of ongoing NIAID research. New smallpox, Ebola and anthrax vaccines have been developed by NIAID researchers or grantees and are now approaching clinical testing. One of the first drugs to help treat smallpox was recently submitted to the FDA for approval, and two recent studies identified important biochemical features of two different anthrax toxins that have provided promising leads for new anthrax drugs. Over the past several years, NIAID scientists and grantees have made tremendous strides in understanding the complex physiology of the bacteria that cause anthrax and plague, for example. The mechanism of pathogenesis of Ebola virus and other agents is also better understood. In addition, rapid progress in determining the genetic blueprints of dangerous pathogens has provided a wealth of information on the underlying biology of those organisms.
The NIAID Counter-Bioterrorism Research Agenda for CDC Category A Agents is available online at http://www.niaid.nih.gov/dmid/pdf/biotresearchagenda.pdf. Researchers can find information on bioterrorism-related research funding opportunities at http://www.niaid.nih.gov/dmid/bioterrorism.
NIAID is a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NIAID supports basic and applied research to prevent, diagnose, and treat infectious and immune-mediated illnesses, including HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, illness from potential agents of bioterrorism, tuberculosis, malaria, autoimmune disorders, asthma and allergies.
Press releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on the NIAID Web site at http://www.niaid.nih.gov.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is a component of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.