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Regional Consortium of Universities Chosen for Southeastern Regional Center of Excellence for Emerging Infections and Biodefense

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Duke Health News 919-660-1306

DURHAM, NC – A consortium of investigators from six regional
universities has been chosen to be part of a new biodefense
initiative that will work to develop the next generation of
vaccines, drugs and diagnostic tests against emerging
infections such as SARS, and for defense against organisms such
as smallpox that might be used in bioterrorist attacks.

The Southeast Regional Center of Excellence for Emerging
Infections and Biodefense (SERCEB) will include researchers
from Duke University Medical Center, Emory University,
University of Alabama at Birmingham, University of Florida,
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine,
and Vanderbilt University Medical Center. The consortium will
be centered at Duke and led by Barton Haynes, M.D., of the Duke
Human Vaccine Institute. Its co-leaders are David Stephens,
M.D., Emory University; Richard Whitley, M.D., UAB; Richard
Moyer, Ph.D., University of Florida; Frederick Sparling, M.D.,
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine;
and Mark Denison, M.D., Vanderbilt University Medical
Center.

The
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the
Department of Health and Human Services
today announced
more than $45 million in funding over five years for the SERCEB
consortium, one of eight "Regional Centers of Excellence for
Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases Research." The
centers will develop and conduct programs of basic and applied
research; train researchers and other personnel for emerging
infection and biodefense research activities; and develop and
maintain comprehensive scientific core facilities to support
their research and training activities.

SERCEB will also maintain and make available core facilities
and other support to approved investigators from academia,
industry and government agencies in the region. These
investigators will be able to perform basic research and test
and evaluate vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics for
emerging infections and select agents.

The consortium's initial work will focus on developing new
vaccines, diagnostics and treatments for orthopoxviruses
(including smallpox and monkeypox), Bacillus anthracis
(anthrax) and Y. pestis, the bacteria that causes plague.

Research is targeted to begin this fall at the six SERCEB
member institutions. Government partners with the SERCEB teams
will include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in
Atlanta, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the NIH. In
addition, research team members from the University of
Michigan, Southern Research Institute, the University of
Tennessee, the Yerkes National Primate Research Center of Emory
University and Tulane National Primate Research Center will
collaborate with SERCEB investigators.

Speaking on behalf of the group, Haynes noted, "We have
organized a SERCEB research staff with new and powerful
collaborative teams that cross institutions. The SERCEB
includes some of the most outstanding investigators in
immunology and infectious diseases in the United States. Each
member institution has enormous resources. We believe that by
working synergistically in this virtual center, we can address
difficult problems in ways we could not address before, and
with speed that will rapidly benefit the public. This funding
will allow us to carry out unprecedented research in a
collaborative manner."

SERCEB will develop new vaccines to prevent emerging
infections and new drugs to treat infections for which current
treatments may not be optimal.

"This is an important step in defending our country against
both a wide variety of emerging infections and a potential
bioterror attack," Haynes said. "Over the past year, we have
seen natural outbreaks of SARS, West Nile Virus and monkeypox
that were not anticipated. SERCEB investigators hope to develop
general strategies that can help protect the public not only
from potential bioterrorist agents such as smallpox, plague and
anthrax, but also from naturally occurring emerging infections
that so frequently jump from animals to man. SERCEB has
organized a full continuum of resources, from basic scientists
to those who can carry out clinical trials of developed
vaccines and drugs. Our goal is to produce advances that will
benefit the public as rapidly as possible."

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