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 attack.
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 said.
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 your life.”
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 delivery
“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.”