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J. Craig Venter Institute awarded $25M NIH grant

Monday, June 9, 2014

Scientists from the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI), a nonprofit genomic research organization, have been awarded a five year grant from the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to establish and operate a Genome Center for Infectious Diseases (GCID). Funding for this center is up to $25 million over the five-year award period.

The goal of the grant is to further develop and enhance basic science understanding of infectious diseases by increased focus on and analysis of the pathogens responsible for infectious disease. The findings and outcomes from the work will be available as a resource for the broad scientific community.

The research, led by JCVI co-Principal Investigators Karen Nelson, Ph.D., president, and William Nierman, Ph.D., professor, Infectious Disease Group, will involve more than 50 collaborators at approximately 40 research organizations around the world.

Infectious diseases are still one of the leading causes of death worldwide, especially in children in Africa and Southeast Asia. Globally, anti-microbial drug resistance continues to rise with some of the most common bacteria resistant to all but the strongest classes of antibiotics. The world population also is growing and travel is easier and faster to all corners of the world, making pandemics a continual threat. Continued research into pathogen biology and infectious disease transmission is a key component to helping to alleviate these global health challenges.

Since the inception of JCVI, pathogen genomics has been a major focus. JCVI was a past recipient of funding as one of NIAID’s Microbial Sequencing Centers and Genomic Sequencing Centers for Infectious Diseases. Building on this experience, the JCVI-led team will utilize next generation DNA sequencing technologies, coupled with new bioinformatics and computing capabilities to meet the new GCID goals. The overarching objective of the program is to apply these genomic technologies to better understand pathogen biology, virulence, drug resistance, immune evasion and host microbiome biological interactions. Specific aims of the program are:

  • Enhance understanding of pathogen drug resistance and identify approaches to manage human infections by drug resistant organisms
  • Gain new insight into microbial diversity and evolution of pathogen populations and how these impact human infectious diseases
  • Identify mechanisms and consequences of pathogen modulation of host response to infection, and understand how the pathogen interacts with host immune system and the host microbiome
  • Characterize the genomic variation in and virulence of infectious diseases
  • Explore human immunity to malaria and influenza.

To achieve these specific targets, the program will be broken down into three research projects, which will focus on viruses, bacteria and parasites. Other JCVI researchers working on this grant include: Mark Adams, Ph.D., scientific director; Granger Sutton, Ph.D., professor, Informatics; and Suman Das, Ph.D., assistant professor, Infectious Disease Group.

“Since the earliest days of the Institute, pathogen genomics and infectious disease research has been one of our key focus areas given the grave health and economic toll infectious diseases take on societies globally,” said J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., founder and CEO, JCVI.

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