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University of Florida to Share in $45 Million Grant to Fight Bioterrorism, New Diseases
The University of Florida, together with a consortium
of five other Southeastern universities, will share a five-year, $45 million
federal grant to combat bioterrorism threats such as smallpox and emerging diseases
such as SARS, the National Institutes of Health and the U.S.Department of Homeland
Security announced recently.
Scientists at the six institutions belonging to the Southeastern
Regional Center of Excellence for Emerging Infections and Biodefense, SERCEB,
will begin collaborating this fall to develop vaccines, diagnostic tests and
treatments for potential bioterrorism agents
"I'm very optimistic that many of the threats people are concerned about
with respect to bioterrorism will cease to be so in four or five years, because
we will learn to deal more effectively with them," said Richard Moyer,
UF College of Medicine senior associate dean for research development. Moyer
is also a professor in the UF department of molecular genetics and microbiology
who serves on the consortium's six-member steering committee.
Moyer said UF scientists, in collaboration with other member institutions,
will lead investigations beginning next month to help create second-generation,
novel smallpox vaccines to prevent the virus from entering human cells, and
to develop new drugs to prevent the smallpox virus from replicating.
Founded last year, the center is one of eight such collaborations nationwide.
It will be headquartered at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C.,
and led by Dr. Barton Haynes of the Duke Human Vaccine Institute. Other member
institutions are the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Emory University
in Atlanta, the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Vanderbilt University
The University of South Florida is an affiliate of the project and
the only other Florida academic institution involved. Government research facilities
such as the NIH, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Oak Ridge
National Laboratory also will participate, along with Veterans Affairs medical
centers and state health departments.
The $45 million in funding should be allocated by Sept. 30, with UF expected
to receive about $4 million, Moyer said. Universities conducting research on
nonhuman primates are expected to receive much larger amounts because of the
expense involved with care and maintenance of the animals.
Center-wide core facilities also will be funded. Federal funding for all eight
regional centers nationwide is approximately $350 million over a five-year period.
"What excites me more than the funding is that we get a seat at the table,"
Moyer said. "This group will be one of the major players for U.S. health
policy regarding bioterrorism."
Moyer said West Nile virus, SARS and other sorts of emerging diseases are going
to become more common, but SERCEB is designed to deal with problems in a hurry
Under Moyer's direction, UF scientists have won international
recognition for research on vaccinia, a virus that serves as the basis for the
current smallpox vaccine, and swinepox, rabbitpox and pox viruses of insects,
known as entomopoxviruses.