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Updated 11:30 AM December 6, 2004




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Med School receives $5.9M NIH grant to study anthrax

The Medical School has been awarded a $5.9-million, five-year contract from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to create a comprehensive inventory of genes and proteins active in Bacillus anthracis, the bacterium that causes anthrax, as it infects its human host.

The center is one of seven new National Institutes of Health-funded Biodefense Proteomics Research Centers that will study biodefense-related pathogens or pathogens responsible for emerging and re-emerging diseases.

"Our objective is to use global proteomics- and genomics-based approaches to document gene expression patterns during all phases of the B. anthracis lifecycle, but especially at the earliest stages of infection," says Philip Hanna, director of the center and assistant professor of microbiology and immunology in the Medical School.

"We anticipate that our work will provide the first detailed characterization of specific elements in the bacterium and host that are essential for anthrax infection," Hanna says. "Identifying the bacterium's weak points will provide targets for rapid diagnosis and the development of more effective drugs and vaccines to prevent anthrax infection or minimize its effects."

"One of the goals of the center is to integrate the data into a central database that will be available to other scientists around the country," says Nicholas Bergman, co-director of the center and a research investigator in bioinformatics in the Medical School. "This resource should be very useful to investigators who are developing new drugs and vaccines."

Bergman is a member of the NIAID committee charged with developing databases to store data from each research center.

The team will collaborate with John Yates III of The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif. Scientists at the Scripps Institute will use advanced proteomics analysis techniques, which they developed and are required for the study, while U-M scientists focus on microbial pathogenesis, as well as anthrax and host genomics.

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