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$24-million grant funds local researchers to create encyclopedia of the innate immune system

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has awarded a multi-year, $24-million grant to a group of researchers at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in La Jolla, the Institute for Systems Biology (ISB) in Seattle, Washington, and The Rockefeller University in New York, New York.

The group's task is to create an "encyclopedia" of innate immunity--a comprehensive and detailed picture of this ancient, essential first line of defense against bacterial and fungal diseases that is mustered by humans, fruit flies, and all creatures in between.

"There are lots of questions we would like to ask about gene expression and protein expression in innate immunity," says TSRI Professor and Chair of Immunology Richard J. Ulevitch, Ph.D., the project's principal investigator. "But to accomplish this in the broadest terms we need to define gene and protein expression patterns when the innate immune system is triggered by invading microbes."

The funds will go towards discovering new ways to study the immune system in living tissue in real time and to provide materials and information to the scientific community at large. Knowledge generated could help scientists develop treatments for septic shock, certain autoimmune disorders, and diseases caused by potential agents of bioterrorism.

A Systems Approach to Innate Immunity

Innate immunity is essential for survival in a world filled with microbial pathogens. Cells of the innate immune system are the body's first responders, arriving soon after foreign elements are detected. Some innate cells find and engulf microorganisms, while others release chemicals that kill the organism directly. Still other cells begin recruiting other specialized immune components to the region.

Severe defects in the innate immune system make humans highly susceptible to normally benign infections, which can then become life threatening. For instance, babies born without functional
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Contact: Jason Bardi
jasonb@scripps.edu
858-784-9254
Scripps Research Institute
8-Jan-2003


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