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Center for Infectious Diseases Receives $7.4M from NIH

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From left, standing: Jorge Benach, Adrianus van der Velden, Martha Furie, David Thanassi, and Erich Mackow. From left, seated: Wali Karzai and James Bliska
From left, standing: Jorge Benach, Adrianus van der Velden, Martha Furie, David Thanassi, and Erich Mackow. From left, seated: Wali Karzai and James Bliska

The Center for Infectious Diseases (CID) at Stony Brook received a $7.4 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to continue a research program focused on investigating emerging organisms causing bacterial and viral infections in humans. The grant is a competitive renewal that began in 2004 and will total $23 million.

The continuation grant is part of the NIH’s Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Disease Research Opportunity Program that is geared toward supporting interdisciplinary scientific research aimed at understanding how virulent organisms cause disease and finding ways to prevent them.

“There are a number of emerging organisms that have the potential to cause human diseases, but what we really need to understand is why these organisms are so virulent, which is an essential step in planning how to deal with them,” said Distinguished Professor Jorge Benach, Principal Investigator and Chair of the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, who is also Director of the CID.

Under the emerging infectious diseases program at the CID, researchers have uncovered certain characteristics of organisms that may be implicated in human infection and disease. Examples include the discovery of external structures, known as pili, in some bacteria that enhance their ability to cause infection; the development of reagents to identify and immunize against several species of bacteria including enteric, urinary tract, and respiratory pathogens; the identification of molecular pathways that enhance the ability of hemorrhagic fever viruses to cause blood vessel damage; and the identification of mutant bacteria that lack genetic elements and may be useful as experimental vaccines.

Members of the CID program include professors from various School of Medicine and University departments, namely James Bliska, Erich Mackow, David Thanassi, and Adrianus van der Velden from the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology; Martha Furie from the Department of Pathology; and Wali Karzai from the Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology.

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