HHS Announces New Regional Centers for Biodefense Research
Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson today announced grants totaling approximately $350 million spread over five years to establish eight Regional Centers of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases Research (RCE). This nationwide group of multidisciplinary centers is a key element in HHS' strategic plan for biodefense research.
"We have moved with unprecedented speed and determination to prepare for a bioterror attack or any other public health crisis since the terrorist attacks of 2001," Secretary Thompson said. "These new grants add to this effort and will not only better prepare us for a bioterrorism attack, but will also enhance our ability to deal with any public health crisis, such as SARS and West Nile virus."
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a part of HHS' National Institutes of Health, is providing the grants and will administer the RCE program.
"Since the terrorist attacks on American soil in 2001, NIAID has moved rapidly to bolster basic biomedical research and the development of countermeasures to defend the United States against deliberately released agents of bioterrorism as well as naturally occurring infectious diseases," said Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., NIAID director. "The new RCE program provides a coordinated and comprehensive mechanism to support the interdisciplinary research that will lead to new and improved therapies, vaccines, diagnostics and other tools to protect the citizens of our country and the world against the threat of bioterrorism and other emerging and re-emerging diseases."
The RCE program's primary role is to foster the physical and intellectual environments in which wide-ranging research on infectious diseases can proceed productively and safely. All RCEs will:
- Support investigator-directed research
- Train researchers and other personnel for biodefense research activities
- Create and maintain supporting resources, including scientific equipment and trained support personnel, for use by the RCEs and other researchers in the region
- Emphasize research focused on development and testing of vaccine, therapeutic and diagnostic concepts
- Make available core facilities to approved investigators from academia, government, biotech companies and the pharmaceutical industry
- Provide facilities and scientific support to first responders in the event of a national biodefense emergency
Each center comprises a lead institution and affiliated institutions located primarily in the same geographical region. The eight institutions receiving an RCE grant and the principal investigator at each are:
- Duke University, Barton Haynes, M.D.
- Harvard Medical School, Dennis Kasper, M.D.
- New York State Department of Health, Ian Lipkin, M.D.
- University of Chicago, Olaf Schneewind, Ph.D.
- University of Maryland, Baltimore, Myron Levine, M.D.
- University of Texas Medical Branch (Galveston), David Walker, M.D.
- University of Washington, Samuel Miller, M.D.
- Washington University in St. Louis, Samuel Stanley, M.D.
Research to be conducted in the RCE program includes:
- Developing new approaches to blocking the action of anthrax, botulinum and cholera toxins
- Developing new vaccines against anthrax, plague, tularemia, smallpox and Ebola
- Developing new antibiotics and other therapeutic strategies
- Studying bacterial and viral disease processes
- Designing new advanced diagnostic approaches for biodefense and for emerging diseases
- Conducting immunological studies of diseases caused by potential agents of bioterrorism
- Developing computational and genomic approaches to combating disease agents
- Creating new immunization strategies and delivery systems
In addition to the eight RCEs, NIAID is funding two Planning Grants for Regional Centers of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases (P-RCEs). The P-RCEs will support training, planning, research development and resource acquisition that could lead to the future establishment of a regional center. The lead institutions and principal investigators of the P-RCEs are:
- University of Iowa, Bradley Britigan, M.D.
- University of Minnesota, Patrick Schlievert, Ph.D.
Additional information on NIAID's biodefense program is available at http://www.niaid.nih.gov/biodefense/.