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NIAID takes next genome step

For the first time in history, infectious diseases researchers are armed with the complete genetic blueprints for many of the world's most common or deadly microbes. Today, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) announced a major new initiative that will use those blueprints to identify the precise molecules a microbe uses to infect people and cause illness or even death. Through a six-year, $25 million contract, NIAID will establish a functional genomics resource center at The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) in Rockville, Md. The center will provide tools, reagents and training for researchers and will play a key role in helping scientists use an organism's DNA code to learn new ways to attack that organism.

A microbe's genes are the blueprints for its proteins. Different proteins perform different duties: structural proteins compose the framework of a cell, toxins attack and damage a person's cells, and enzymes direct the hundreds of different chemical reactions a microbe requires for survival. The power of the genome is that it contains a complete, coded list of all the proteins a pathogen makes. Researchers use functional genomics to scour that list and determine what role each protein plays.

"This is an unprecedented period in infectious diseases research because we now know the genetic information that helps dictate the biology of many microbes," says NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. "The new functional genomics center will help us use that information to better understand the roles of individual genes and proteins, and to develop new drugs and vaccines that specifically target each organism."

With NIAID support, scientists from TIGR and other institutions have already finished sequencing the DNA of many pathogens, including those that cause tuberculosis, cholera, chlamydial infections and syphilis. Parts of the malaria and leishmania parasite genomes are also known. The functions of some
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Contact: Sam Perdue
sp189u@nih.gov
301-402-1663
NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
29-Nov-2001


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