Colorado State University Awarded $25 Million from Nih to Battle Tuberculosis

The National Institutes of Health awarded Colorado State University a seven-year $25.2 million contract to further its worldwide leadership role in the battle against reemerging tuberculosis.

"The National Institutes of Health has selected Colorado State as a critical player in the war against tuberculosis," said Larry Edward Penley, president of Colorado State. "This support will greatly enhance the university’s groundbreaking work focused on controlling, delaying and even preventing the development of tuberculosis, and millions of people worldwide will benefit from this research."

Colorado State’s Mycobacteria Research Laboratories in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences received the NIH testing and research materials contract to continue its world-recognized tuberculosis research program. The contract is a renewal of an existing NIH contract initially awarded in 1992 and renewed in 1997.

"Because of Colorado State’s vast expertise and advanced facilities, NIH support of our tuberculosis research has long been substantial, and this grant is a continuation of a successful ongoing program," said John Belisle, director of the Mycobacteria Research Laboratories and principle investigator for the NIH contract. "The new contract will allow Colorado State to enhance our research, support additional research efforts with collaborators throughout the world, and bring us closer to effective vaccines to prevent TB."

The NIH contract will allow the Colorado State team to make significant advances and contributions to TB research by supporting the identification of products from Mycobacterium tuberculosis that are involved in the disease process and could be used to develop drugs or vaccines to fight the disease. The contract also will allow the team to generate large quantities of tuberculosis research materials to provide to investigators around the world for the advancement of their research.

Additionally, the contract will provide evaluation of potential vaccines against TB and the development of new research models to address specific scientific questions about the disease. As part of the vaccine work, the team will develop new methods to evaluate vaccines in special populations, including populations who have already been exposed to TB, vaccinated with BCG (an existing TB vaccine), or are immunosuppressed, such as individuals with HIV/AIDS.

"With this research support, the federal government recognizes Colorado State’s expertise in tuberculosis research, and the important leadership role our university is taking in addressing a pressing international need," said Anthony Frank, vice president for research and information technology at Colorado State. "Through this NIH contract, Colorado State has become even more firmly established as a world leader in tuberculosis and infectious disease research."

Tuberculosis is the leading bacterial killer in the world, infecting 10 million people and causing three million deaths annually. It is resurgent in developing countries and, in America, in prison populations, among the homeless and in HIV/AIDS-infected patients. Recent data suggests that the current annual death rate of 3.3 million people per year due to the disease may be increasing. Nearly one-third of the world’s population, approximately 2 billion people, is believed to be infected with TB, the leading cause of death due to an infectious agent.

"Two of the primary co-principal investigators, Karen Dobos and Angelo Izzo, were hired specifically for management of specific aspects of our existing NIH contract and having them here at Colorado State definitely enabled us to increase our level of funding and be successful in this award," said Belisle.

In addition to Belisle, Dobos and Izzo, two other investigators, Ian Orme and Richard Slayden, are part of the research team on the NIH contract. The Mycobacteria Research Laboratories, which are unique given the amount of expertise focused on one problem, are part of the Infectious Diseases Program at Colorado State, a Program of Research and Scholarly Excellence. Last year, the Mycobacteria Research Laboratories were awarded a five-year, $3 million NIH grant to conduct a pioneering study to examine the long-term effectiveness and safety of tuberculosis vaccines.