Colorado State University Awarded $40 Million Nih Grant for Regional Center of Excellence in Infectious Disease Research

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Colorado State University today was awarded a four-year, $40 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, or NIAID, part of the National Institutes of Health, to establish a Regional Center of Excellence, or RCE, for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases research and training. The Rocky Mountain RCE will expand the university’s world-recognized work in infectious disease and biodefense research and address a national need for increased capacity to develop new vaccines, diagnostics and medicines for infectious diseases.   

"With this NIH grant, the federal government again recognizes Colorado State’s world-class expertise in infectious disease and biosecurity research," said Larry Edward Penley, president of Colorado State University. "The Rocky Mountain RCE will add to an already impressive federal and university effort centered here at Colorado State University and will further cement our Foothills Research Campus as a leading international center for infectious disease and global health research."  

The Rocky Mountain RCE, which includes Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming, will be a multi-disciplinary, highly interactive center for research and training to address national needs to counteract potential agents of emerging diseases and bioterrorism. 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 Barry J. Beaty, a Colorado State University Distinguished Professor and member of the National Academy of Sciences who is heading up the RCE consortium. "A very 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."  

Led by Beaty, the 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.  

Rocky Mountain RCE scientists will work at their respective universities, companies and state and federal agencies to develop new vaccines, drugs and diagnostic procedures for emerging disease pathogens including West Nile virus, equine encephalitis virus, hantaviruses, plague, drug resistant tuberculosis and tularemia and other zoonotic diseases that could emerge as a consequence of natural or purposeful events.

Industrial partners and other collaborators will be able to use the state-of-the-art facilities and expertise provided 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 will greatly enhance infectious disease and bioresearch infrastructure at Colorado State and further boost the university’s ongoing strength in a vital research arena while meeting global health needs," said Anthony Frank, senior vice president and interim provost. "Taken as a whole, there is simply no better site in the nation for this very important and beneficial research."

The RCE will complement and enhance similar research already underway on Colorado State’s Foothills Research Campus at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Division of Vector Borne Infectious Diseases, as well as the university’s Arthropod-borne and Infectious Diseases Laboratory and its Bioenvironmental Research Building.

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, Colorado State was awarded a $17 million grant from NIAID to construct a 33,850-square-foot Regional Biocontainment Laboratory to expand the university’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 an additional $10 million to enhance its infectious disease research program.

"The Rocky Mountain RCE, combined with Colorado State’s Regional Biocontainment Laboratory and our federal and industrial partners, will provide an unsurpassed regional, national and international health resource that will focus on the diagnosis, prevention and control of diseases that are the cause of much suffering and mortality worldwide," said Hank Gardner, interim vice president for research at Colorado State.

The biodefense research grants announced by NIAID today – one to Colorado State and the other to the University of California-Irvine – mark the completion of a national network of academic centers that conducts research to counter threats from emerging infectious diseases and bioterror agents. Each of the 10 Regional Centers for Excellence is a research consortium made up of universities and other research institutions within a geographic region.

The other consortia-leading institutions in the network include 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 and Washington University in St. Louis.