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NIAID Pathogen Centers Get 5 Years of Support

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases plans to renew support for its network of research centers focused on infectious diseases under a five-year program, which will include granting up to $20 million in stimulus funding over the next two years to certain projects. It also plans to add a new center to the program

NIAID said this week that it expects to provide total funding of around $455 million over the next five years for its Regional Centers of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases Research (RCE).

The institute also will create a new RCE with Oregon Health and Science University that will be based in the Pacific Northwest.

The new projects that will be given supplemental funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act must be able to be completed within two years and should have "a high likelihood of delivering significant advances in that time period," NIAID said.

NIAID Director Anthony Fauci said in a statement that the centers "are a critical component of our national research infrastructure for infectious diseases, and are designed to respond flexibly to changing scientific needs and priorities. Research studies conducted by the RCEs are central to our efforts to develop countermeasures against both endemic and emergent diseases."

The RCEs conduct scientific research, including genomic sequencing and other 'omics studies, into infectious and emerging diseases that have the potential to cause deadly outbreaks or to be used as bioweapons. These include priority pathogens such as plague-causing bacteria and viruses, including anthrax, West Nile fever, dengue fever, and others. The centers also provide expertise to first responders in the event of infectious disease-related emergencies.

These centers also train researchers and other personnel for biodefense research, create and maintain supporting resources such as scientific equipment that other researchers can use, and they make their core facilities available to investigators from academia, government, and biotech and pharmaceutical companies.

The RCEs use a range of scientific approaches, including genomics and proteomics, high-throughput small molecule screening, microscopy, preclinical development studies, animal studies, and others.

NIAID said it conducted an interim evaluation of the RCE program, which began five years ago, and found that they are meeting their goals of increasing basic knowledge about pathogens that NIAID has classified as A, B, and C level priorities.

The eleven RCEs include: the New England Regional Center, based at Harvard Medical School; the Northeast Biodefense Center, based at Columbia University; the Mid-Atlantic Center, based at the University of Maryland, Baltimore; the Southeast Regional Center, based at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; the Great Lakes Regional Center, based at the University of Chicago; the Western Regional Center, based at the University of Texas Medical Branch; the Midwest Regional Center, based at Washington University; the Rocky Mountain Regional Center, based at Colorado State University (Fort Collins); the Pacific Southwest Regional Center, based at the University of California, Irvine; and the Northwest Regional Center, based at the University of Washington.

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