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New center to study deadly microbial pathogens

The University of Washington School of Medicine has established the Keck Center for Functional, Structural, and Chemical Genomics of Microbial Pathogens. The Keck Center will use state-of-the-art technology to mount an assault on some of the most dangerous and deadly infections on earth.

"These diseases are among the most heart-rending in the world whether it's a child with cystic fibrosis in the United States dying from protracted infection with Pseudomonas, or a child in Africa dying of malaria," says Dr. Chris Wilson, professor and chair of immunology, one of the co-directors of the center. "Infectious agents remain the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in developing nations. They are a major cause of morbidity and mortality for certain risk groups in developed nations like the United States. And infectious agents are readily spread between nations."

The center was established through a $2 million gift from the W. M. Keck Foundation of Los Angeles, one of the nation's largest philanthropic organizations.

The gift will help unite 20 UW faculty into a coordinated research effort to exploit the full medical potential of existing and forthcoming microbial genome sequences. In addition, the Keck Center will contribute resources to attract new faculty in the areas of mass spectrometry, crystallography, and proteomics (studies of proteins).

Pathogenic microbes threaten human health worldwide, because these hardy organisms easily spread between countries and have the potential to evolve faster than treatments can be devised to combat them. In the United States, the rate of deaths caused by infectious disease has grown from 36 per 100,000 in 1981 to at least 63 per 100,000 in 1999.

"Human history teaches us that microbes have major advantages in an arms race with humans numbers, generation time, and genetic adaptability. The battle can be won, but only by systematically applying the newest technology and consistently adopting in
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Contact: Walter Neary
wneary@u.washington.edu
206-685-3841
University of Washington
6-Mar-2002


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