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Grants to fund research on preparing for bioterrorist attack

Research teams at the University of Rochester Medical Center have received two $10 million grants to help ready the nation to defend itself against terrorist attacks where viruses or bacteria are used as weapons. Together with a September grant meant to improve emergency medical treatment after a "dirty bomb" radiation attack, the new grants bring to $41 million the anti-terror research funding received by the Medical Center in two months.

The two new grants are from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the nation's lead institution for research into vaccines against potential bioterror agents. One grant will establish the Center for Biodefense Immune Modeling, which will seek to develop mathematical models and computer simulations of how the human immune system responds to influenza A and smallpox, two of the worst threats. Such simulations could help researchers devise countermeasures, including new ways to boost the body's ability to fight disease.

"The infection simulator would allow us to think like would-be bioterrorists, testing in cyberspace how the body responds to viruses that have been engineered to be even deadlier," said Hulin Wu, Ph.D., professor and division chief, Department of Biostatistics and Computational Biology, and director of the new modeling center. "We must plan ahead for potential attacks, that if not countered, could cause a global epidemic that takes tens of millions of lives. Should bioweapons never be used, the work better prepares us for a future attack by nature itself, perhaps in the form of a bird flu pandemic."

The second grant will establish the Program for Biodefense of Immunocompromised Populations. Its goal will be to find new ways to help those most vulnerable to bioterrorist attack to survive despite having weaker immune systems. Along with children and the elderly, also vulnerable are millions of patients with diseases like cancer or rheumatoid arthritis (RA) where
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Contact: Greg Williams
Greg_Williams@urmc.rochester.edu
University of Rochester Medical Center
8-Nov-2005


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