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New UW Infectious Disease Center Hitting its STRIDE

By Alex Philippidis

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb Daily News) — The University of Washington's new center for Systems and Translational Research on Infectious Disease, or STRIDE, expects to expand its roster by more than 20 scientists over the next 12 months, as well as grow its proportion of researchers from outside UW.

The new professionals will join a research consortium launched Feb. 5 to apply systems analysis and computational biology to the study of interactions between pathogens and their hosts, with the goal of fighting infectious diseases.

STRIDE was formed to bring together researchers with backgrounds in areas that include genetics, genomics, proteomics, computational biology, biostatistics, and infectious disease. Within the center, more than 40 scientists specialize in infectious disease research that includes AIDS, influenza, SARS, biodefense, and vaccine effectiveness.

"Since STRIDE was recognized as an official center in February of this year, we have received a large response of new applicants and we expect enrollment to grow by over 50 percent in the next year," Paulene Quigley, STRIDE's scientific program manager, told GenomeWeb Daily News on Monday. "We will be actively recruiting new investigators with projects ripe for high-throughput technologies to join our team, as well as expanding our clinician base and contacts in the biotech sector."

STRIDE's operations are based at the UW School of Medicine, though portions of the center's research are conducted at Seattle-based drug developer Kineta and several institutions in and outside Washington State.

The institutions include Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center; Seattle Children's Research Institute; the Institute of Translational Health Sciences, which is a partnership between UW, the Hutchinson Center, and Seattle Children's; and Washington National Primate Research Center, all based in Seattle; the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash.; and out-of-state institutions such as the University of North Carolina and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

At present, about 30 percent of STRIDE's investigators are from outside the University of Washington. "We expect this percentage to grow as our recruitment continues," Quigley told GWDN.

The new hires will become co-investigators by offering collaborative support through STRIDE, rather than through the fee-for-service arrangement practiced by many core facilities. "The STRIDE center provides a much needed infrastructure to attract new members, increase visibility, and serve as a catalyst for securing new funding to support expanded training and research initiatives," Quigley said.

Michael Katze, a professor of microbiology at UW Medicine and associate director for research at the Washington National Primate Research Center (WNPRC), is STRIDE's director. The center's Co-director, Timothy Rose, is a professor of pediatrics at UW Medicine, and a scientist at Seattle Children's.

Katze's research for STRIDE will focus on virus-host interactions. Joining Katze in the initial group of STRIDE investigators are:

• David M. Anderson, WNPRC and UW Department of Comparative Medicine, whose research will focus on animal models;
• Steven Self, Hutchinson Center, biostatistics;
• Richard Smith, Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, proteomics and metabolomics;
• Ralph Baric, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, SARS and calciviridae infections in domestic animals;
• Michael Gale, Jr., UW Immunology, innate immunology;
• Yoshihiro Kawaoka, University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine, influenza;
• Tim Rose, UW Pediatrics, AIDS-related malignancies;
• Shawn Iadonato, Kineta, clinical applications; and
• Lynn Rose, ITHS and Seattle Children's, clinical applications.

STRIDE's priorities, Quigley noted, are in line with those articulated in recent months by NIH Director Francis Collins: focusing on global health; using high-throughput technologies to expand the scope of biological investigations; discerning more quickly the diagnostic and therapeutic applications of scientific breakthroughs, toward faster translation into new drugs; improving the quality of health care; and training new scientists.

Quigley said STRIDE will help train young scientists to apply high-throughput technologies to infectious disease. The center has created a Systems Biology Speaker Series of talks by experts in the field, set to start later this year; joined with the biology curriculum consortium BioQuest in launching outreach programs for high school students at the Seattle Biomedical Research Institute; and joined with ITHS on a program that awards training grants, both career development and ignition awards, funded through the $862 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The researchers also plan to develop bioinformatics infrastructure for the storage, interpretation, and dissemination of proteomics data, incorporating LabKey and other open source tools.

"The STRIDE center allows new investigators to explore systems approaches with very little overhead and the guidance and expertise of STRIDE investigators, to help them quickly translate these projects to direct patient benefits," Quigley said.

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