|NIAID Funds $51 Million Contract to Create Comprehensive
Model of Immune Responses
Knowledge Will Aid Development of Treatments and Vaccines
A team of scientists is expanding efforts to develop a detailed
picture of immune system function with a new $51 million, five-year
contract from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious
Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health. The
research builds on a project originally funded by NIAID in 2003,
and will continue to be led by Richard Ulevitch, Ph.D., of The
Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif. The contract will
also involve scientists from the Institute for Systems Biology
in Seattle; Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif.; and the Australian
National University, Canberra.
"The collaborators on this project have previously made significant
contributions to our understanding of innate immunity, the body's
first line of defense against infection," says NIAID Director
Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. "They are well-positioned to generate
knowledge that will advance the development of new treatments,
diagnostics and vaccines for infectious diseases that occur naturally
or are deliberately introduced into a population."
According to Dr. Ulevitch, the researchers will use a systems
biology approach to build a comprehensive model of the immune system's
response to several disease-causing agents. Systems biology melds
established life sciences with informatics, computer modeling and
new techniques of gene and protein analysis to generate a wide-angle
view of entire biological systems. To date, the team focused on
developing an encyclopedic account of innate immunity. Now, the
project's scope will broaden to encompass components of adaptive
immunity, which includes antibodies and a diverse class of immune
system cells called T cells.
Dr. Ulevitch and his collaborators will create mutant mice and
then screen them to find defects in the animals' innate and adaptive
immune reactions to viruses, including influenza, mousepox and
mouse cytomegalovirus, and to several bacteria, including Salmonella and Listeria.
Next, the group will conduct a systems-level analysis of the multiple
immune system signaling pathways triggered by infection. The expanded
project also will include studies aimed at determining the relevance
to humans of genes and pathways discovered in mouse models.
"We recognize that translating findings made with mouse models
to their counterparts in the human immune system is a formidable
challenge," says Dr. Ulevitch. "But we have in place
a multi-pronged approach that we believe will allow us to validate
our mouse findings in human cells."
Finally, notes Dr. Ulevitch, the consortium will develop a Web-based
data portal that will give the wider scientific community access
to the data, animal models, antibodies and other scientific tools
expected to be generated over the course of the contract. The scientific
community at large will be able to use the Web resources without
any specialized training in informatics or computational analysis,
News releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are
available on the NIAID Web site at http://www.niaid.nih.gov.
NIAID is a component of the National Institutes of Health. NIAID
supports basic and applied research to prevent, diagnose and treat
infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted
infections, influenza, tuberculosis, malaria and illness from potential
agents of bioterrorism. NIAID also supports research on basic immunology,
transplantation and immune-related disorders, including autoimmune
diseases, asthma and allergies.
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.