Purdue biologists receive nearly $18 million to study infectious diseases

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - As part of a major U.S. presidential initiative to combat bioterrorism, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a pair of grants to Purdue University researchers to help the group study viruses thought to have potential as biological weapons.

While the two grants are to support research projects that are independent of one another, together they will allow Purdue biologists to pursue both basic research on viruses and also speed the development of antiviral agents that could stem from this basic research. Richard J. Kuhn, primary investigator for both projects that have seven additional Purdue faculty co-investigators, said the larger of the two grants could have special significance for the future of the university and his field.

"This grant is a significant achievement for both structural biology and Purdue as a whole," said Kuhn, who is professor of biology in Purdue's School of Science. "These funds will permit us to analyze the protein building blocks of viruses far more efficiently than we are now able to. These funds could enable us to make large strides in viral research in a fraction of the time we now consider necessary."

The larger award, a $14.7 million NIH Program Project Grant spread over four and a half years, is aimed to support basic research on the fundamental biology of viruses. At the heart of such research is the study of the myriad proteins that form various parts of viruses; such proteins allow viral particles to infect and replicate within their cellular hosts. Such research generally requires the use of advanced microscopes, synchrotron radiation and computer technology to reveal the protein molecules' internal structures.

"Up to this point, we have only been able to focus on one protein at a time," said Kuhn, who has dedicated much of his career to exploring the structure of such viruses as dengue and sindbis. "These NIH funds mean we will now be able to establish a new type

Contact: Chad Boutin
Purdue University

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