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NIH, NSF, USDA Lead $12M Program for Infectious Disease Transmission Studies

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Three US funding agencies, along with partners in the UK and Israel, will provide up to $12 million next year to support multidisciplinary research projects that will use genomics and a wide range of other methods to better understand how infectious disease pathogens are transmitted and evolve.

These projects will be funded under the Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases (EEID) program, and will aim to create quantitative or computational knowledge about and models of infectious disease transmission among humans, non-humans, or plants, the National Institutes of Health said in a funding notice this week.

The program is a joint initiative between NIH, the National Science Foundation, the US Department of Agriculture, the UK's Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, and the US-Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF). Their contributions will include approximately $5 million from the NIH, $3.7 million from the NSF, and $3.3 million from the USDA. The EEID program also will include collaborative projects with researchers in the UK and Israel, and these will receive $300,000 from the BSF and £500,000 ($829,000) from the BBSRC.

Because infectious disease transmission involves complex, dynamic relationships, understanding these interactions will require analyses of a range of environmental influences on individual and population susceptibility, according to NSF's funding solicitation. As the partners envision it, the projects will investigate the ecological, evolutionary, and socio-ecological factors involved in disease transmission. The studies will involve multidisciplinary teams that include researchers specializing in genomics, bioinformatics, epidemiology, microbiology, virology, social sciences, pathology, and other areas.

Researchers may propose a wide variety of topics for the projects, such as studies of interactions between pathogenic and non-pathogenic organisms and their hosts; the role of medical, agricultural, or environmental practices on pathogen emergence and transmission; host switching; and evolutionary dynamics in an ecological context, among others.

The partners anticipate providing funding to nine award winners.