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Taking aim at bioterrorism: UH professor gets HHS funding to battle anthrax

HOUSTON, Oct. 2, 2003 Selected to play a vital role in confronting the threat of bioterrorism, University of Houston professor Steven Blanke has a particular target in mind: anthrax.

Blanke, an associate professor in the biology and biochemistry department, and his UH colleagues will be working with other research groups in this region to develop countermeasures against a wide array of bacterial and viral agents. Their work is being funded by a recent $48 million grant from the Department of Health and Human Services that establishes a Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases Research (RCE) based at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB).

The Blanke Lab, as the professor's UH facility is known, will receive approximately $1.45 million spread over five years to conduct fundamental research about anthrax and methods to neutralize its impact.

"By understanding the mechanisms of early infection, we hope to generate novel strategies for the development of therapeutics and vaccines to treat and prevent cases of inhalation anthrax," Blanke said.

The Blanke Lab will work closely with research groups from UT-Houston, the University of Oklahoma and the University of New Mexico.

"The RCE is important because it brings together leading researchers from a variety of disciplines to generate bioterrorism countermeasures in a way that couldn't be accomplished at a single university," Blanke said. "We can achieve real results at a much more rapid pace."

UH was a logical choice to become one of the principal RCE participants because of the Blanke Lab's expertise and experience in studying the molecular cross-talk that occurs during an infection between a pathogen and human cells and tissue. Professor Blanke, who joined the UH faculty in 1996, has primarily focused on examining the fundamental molecular mechanisms that bacterial toxins such as diphtheria, cholera and
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Contact: Lisa Merkl
lkmerkl@uh.edu
713-743-8192
University of Houston
2-Oct-2003


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