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NIAID Sets Aside $51M to Help Four Centers Study Systems Bio of Immunity

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease will spread $51 million among four research institutes to help them use genomics, bioinformatics, systems biology, and other approaches to study the human immune system, NIAID said last week.
The goal of the five-year project is to develop a comprehensive model of immune responses that can be used to develop treatments and vaccines to combat disease. It will be run by The Scripps Research Institute, Stanford University, The Institute for Systems Biology, and The Australian National University in Canberra.
Long-term, the project aims to develop approaches to “improving vaccines and immunotherapeutics that can be used against a wide range of diseases, particularly emerging or reemerging infectious diseases,” according to a Scripps Research statement.
Richard Ulevitch, a Scripps Research professor and chairman of the Department of Immunology, will lead the project as principal investigator, according to the NIAID.
“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,” said NIAID Director Anthony Fauci.
“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,” Fauci said.
Ulevitch said the project will take a systems-biology approach to build a model of the immune system’s response to disease-causing agents. He said he and his collaborators will screen mutant mice for defects in their immune reactions to viruses, including influenza, mouse-pox, and mouse cytomegalovirus, and to bacteria, including Salmonella and Listeria.
After the screening process, the researchers will conduct systems-level analysis of multiple immune system signaling pathways and will study which genes and pathways discovered are relevant to humans.
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.
As the research progresses, the consortium will provide a Web-based data portal to enable the scientific community to access the findings “without specialized training in informatics or computational analysis.”
Beside Ulevitch, the consortium includes: Alan Aderem, co-founder and director of the Institute for Systems Biology; Bruce Beutler, chair of the Department of Genetics at Scripps Research; Christopher Goodnow, director of the Australian Phenomics and Immunogenomics Laboratories at the Australian National University; Garry Nolan, director of the Stanford National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Proteomics Center; Ilya Shmulevich, director of Computational Biology at the Institute for Systems Biology; and Luc Teyton, professor in the Department of Immunology at Scripps Research.
Additional information can be found here.

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