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Insight: Research Edition
CSU Selected to Establish Regional Center of Excellence
The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the anthrax scare that followed in October of that year set in motion a chain of events that radically changed the research focus of many in the scientific community and ignited the little known and often ignored field of biodefense. Four years later, in June 2005, the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences’ Infectious Diseases Program brought the University into the biodefense arena in a big way. Based on research programs already in place, and with ambitious plans to expand infectious diseases programs in the future, the University was awarded a four-year, $40 million grant to establish a Regional Center of Excellence, or RCE, for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases research and training.
CSU and the University of California-Irvine, were the ninth and tenth RCEs established by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health. NIAID established the RCE network in 2003 with grants to eight institutions. With CSU and University of California-Irvine, the RCE network is now complete. Each institution leads an RCE consortium made up of universities and other research institutions within its geographic region. Network members are charged with the task of conducting research that will lead to next-generation treatments, vaccines and diagnostic tools for diseases such as equine encephalitis, anthrax, plague, melioidosis, tularemia, botulism and West Nile fever.
Principal investigator Dr. Barry J. Beaty, a Professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology, is leading the Rocky Mountain RCE, whose members include five other universities and small business partners. It also includes substantial collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Rocky Mountain RCE will develop new vaccines, drugs and diagnostics for emerging diseases; provide training in emerging diseases and biosecurity to scientists, physicians, veterinarians and other public health personnel throughout the region; and assist state and federal agencies in responding to emerging diseases.
The Rocky Mountain RCE will focus on zoonotic emerging diseases, which are diseases of animals that are transmissible to humans. Zoonotic pathogens have been the source of almost all emerging diseases throughout the world such as West Nile virus and Sin Nombre Hantavirus that have emerged in the Rocky Mountain region in recent years. The Rocky Mountain RCE will provide a national and regional resource focusing on the diagnosis, prevention and control of these types of diseases.
"There are critical needs to develop new vaccines, drugs and diagnostics to counter these important diseases," said Dr. Beaty, a Colorado State University Distinguished Professor and member of the National Academy of Sciences. "A unique aspect of the Rocky Mountain RCE is to encourage partnerships with industry to develop expeditiously the tools and products needed to counter emerging diseases and bioterrorism events.
"Industrial partners and other collaborators will be able to use the state-of-the-art facilities and expertise pro-vided by the RCE and Colorado State's advanced research laboratories to move their discoveries into commercial products quickly and safely, providing new products for biosecurity and positively impacting economic growth in the region.
The RCE complements and enhances similar research already underway at the College’s Arthropod-Borne and Infectious Disease Laboratory and at the CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases.
In August 2004, the CDC broke ground on a new $80 million, 156,000-square-foot facility dedicated to infectious disease research. In late 2003, the College was awarded a $17 million grant from NIAID to construct a 33,850-square-foot Regional Biocontainment Laboratory to expand the College's ongoing, world-recognized work in infectious disease and biosecurity research. The RCE will be housed primarily at this new laboratory which is expected to be completed in 2007. Additionally, Colorado State recently invested $10 million to enhance its Infectious Diseases Program. Until these buildings are complete, much of the RCE work will take place in the Bioenvironmental Hazards Research Building and other Foothills Research Campus facilities as well as BioSafety Level 2 laboratories on the Main Campus.
The Rocky Mountain RCE is comprised of scientists, public health practitioners and staff from Colorado State University, Centers for Disease Control – Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases, United States Department of Agriculture – Arthropod-Borne Animal Diseases Research Laboratory, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver Health and Hospital Authority, Children's Hospital, Colorado School of Mines, Montana State University, University of Montana, University of North Dakota, University of South Dakota, University of Utah, Utah State University, Brigham Young University and the University of Wyoming. Companies participating in the RCE include Precision Photronics Corporation in Boulder, Alexion Antibodies Technologies in San Diego and DeltaNU LLC in Laramie. Additional universities, agencies and companies will participate in the RCE in the future.
The other consortia-leading institutions in the national RCE network are Duke University, Harvard Medical School, New York State Department of Health, University of Chicago, University of Maryland, University of Texas Medical Branch (Galveston), University of Washington in Seattle and Washington University in St. Louis.