Biodefense Research Partnership
September 19, 2003
Texas A&M University's College of Veterinary Medicine will
be a partner with the University of Texas Medical Branch in
Galveston for biodefense research, part of the National Institutes
of Health (NIH) effort to combat a possible bioterrorism
The NIH recently announced the creation of eight Regional
Centers of Excellence (RCE) for bioterrorism research and awarded
$350 million over five years for the centers to detect and find
ways to combat bioterrorism acts. The new RCEs provide a
coordinated and comprehensive mechanism to support the varied
research that will lead to new and improved vaccines, therapies,
diagnostics and others tools against the threat of bioterrorism,
the NIH said.
Garry Adams, associate dean for research and graduate studies in
the College of Veterinary Medicine, will help coordinate the
research at Texas A&M and work closely with the UT-Medical
Branch. Thomas Ficht, also in the College of Veterinary Medicine,
and Rene Tsolis, professor of microbiology and immunology in the
Health Science Center, will also be instrumental in the bioterror
work, along with James Samuel in the Health Science Center, Adams
Texas A&M will receive $2.6 million over a five-year period
to conduct its bioterrorism research activities, Adams said.
"Our primary goal is to develop human brucellosis and Q-Fever
vaccines, which are somewhat similar diseases," Adams explained.
Tsolis will work on brucellosis vaccines while Samuel will
concentrate on Q-Fever, Adams added.
"Both diseases have been weaponized as terror agents by several
countries, so the threat already exists. Both diseases are rarely
fatal, but they make a person very sick with flu-like conditions
and cause high fever. Both are difficult to cure, and with
brucellosis, once you have it, you usually have it for the rest of
The eight Regional Centers of Excellence for bioterrorism
research are Duke University; Harvard Medical School; New York
State Department of Health; University of Chicago; University of
Maryland; University of Washington; Washington University in St.
Louis; and the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.
About $48 million will be designated for bioterrorism research
at UTMB, according to figures from the National Institutes for
Health. The centers will study infectious diseases, develop
vaccines, antibiotics and other methods to combat biological
terrorist attacks from such substances as anthrax, smallpox and
other deadly diseases.
Specifically, the centers will develop new approaches to
blocking the action of anthrax and other toxins; develop new
vaccines against plague, brucellosis, Q-Fever, anthrax, smallpox,
Ebola and others; develop new antibiotics and other drug
strategies; study bacterial and viral disease processes; design new
diagnostic approaches for biodefense and for emerging diseases;
conduct immunological studies of diseases caused by potential
agents of bioterrorism; and create new immunization strategies and
"The simple explanation of our work is that we want to be able
to detect a bioterrorist disease," Adams said. "We all know the
threat of a bioterrorism attack is very real. That's why this work
is so important, and why we have to come up with the best possible
defense against a public health crisis."
Angela G. Clendenin
Director, Communications & Public Relations
Ofc - (979) 862-2675
Cell - (979) 739-5718
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