Regional Center of Excellence Receives $36.4 Million to Continue Infectious Disease Research at Colorado State University

The Rocky Mountain Regional Center of Excellence was recently awarded $36.4 million from the National Institutes of Health, National Institutes of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, to continue the fight against the world’s most important infectious diseases through researching vaccines, tests and treatments.

The Rocky Mountain RCE was established in 2005 when a group of universities, led by Colorado State University, received an initial $40 million over four years to begin a collaboration to synergize their collective expertise, increasing their effectiveness at researching infectious diseases. The RCE is a collaboration of research universities and federal laboratories in the Rocky Mountain region comprised of facilities in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, and North and South Dakota.

"This continuation of funding is a testament to the quality of our faculty and the groundbreaking research that is taking place here at Colorado State through the Rocky Mountain Regional Center for Excellence," said Tony Frank, interim president of Colorado State. "Finding new treatments to combat some of the world’s most devastating diseases is a paramount need, and we are extremely proud that CSU faculty are on the front lines of this effort."

The RCE’s research focus is partnered with an emphasis on product development, working to reduce the typical 10-20 years it takes for a scientific breakthrough to become a developed product available to the public. The RCE creates an emergency response network that ensures that its experts are available to local, state and federal governments in the event of an infectious disease or bioterrorism crisis. RCE scientists also train regional and national scientists, physicians, veterinarians and other public health personnel in emerging diseases and biosecurity.

The RCE is integrated into the university’s Regional Biocontainment Laboratory on the Foothills Campus. The laboratory is a state-of-the-art facility where researchers study diseases such the plague, Dengue fever, West Nile virus, Rift Valley fever, equine encephalitis virus, hantaviruses,  drug resistant tuberculosis and tularemia, and other zoonotic diseases. Zoonotic disease are those that are transmissible between humans and animals; virtually all of the world’s most troubling infectious diseases are zoonotic diseases.

"This most recent award demonstrates the success of the RCE," said Bill Farland, vice president for Research at Colorado State. "The collective knowledge and creativity of the researchers from across the west who comprise the RMRCE is a great resource to the scientific and biosecurity community in the United States and around the world."

The RCE is overseen by John Belisle, Herbert Schweizer and Julia Inamine, professors in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. 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, University of Colorado – Denver, Montana State University, University of Montana, University of Northern Colorado, University of Utah, Utah State University, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Rocky Mountain Laboratory and the University of Wyoming. Companies participating in the RCE include BIOO in Austin.

Rocky Mountain RCE scientists work at their respective universities, companies and state and federal agencies. Much of the infectious disease research at Colorado State occurs within the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

Colorado State’s infectious disease research is among the best in the world. In 2007, the university unveiled its new infectious disease Supercluster, called MicroRx, to expedite efforts to transfer research into the commercial marketplace.

The RCE and the Rocky Mountain Regional Biocontainment Laboratory complements similar infectious disease research already underway at the CDC facility and the USDA laboratory on the Foothills Campus, along with research at the university’s existing BioEnvironmental Research Building and its Arthropod-borne and Infectious Diseases Laboratory.