NIH awards OHSU $4 million biodefense contract to study tuberculosis

Portland, Ore - Oregon Health & Science University's research team is one of only 14 teams around the country that will help the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, look for proteins that activate the body's immune response to emerging infectious diseases.

OHSU's team will focus on tuberculosis and will use cells from TB patients whose immune response has been successful at keeping the disease under control. The goal is to use this information to help create TB vaccines that can provide the same protection to others.

More than 2 million people die worldwide every year of TB, according to the World Health Organization. TB is caused by a bacteria, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, that usually attacks the lungs. The disease is spread through the air when people with active TB cough. Upon breathing in TB bacteria, the bacteria can settle in the lungs and begin to grow or move through the blood to other parts of the body, such as the kidney, spine and brain.

The Large-Scale Antibody and T Cell Epitope Discovery Program is a five-year, $4 million NIAID contract. It is the largest biodefense contract OHSU has received. OHSU's husband-and-wife physician research team, David and Deborah Lewinsohn, will lead the university's contract. David is a pulmonologist and immunologist at OHSU and the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center, while Deborah is a pediatric infectious disease specialist and immunologist at OHSU and Doernbecher Children's Hospital.

"TB remains one of the leading causes of infectious disease mortality worldwide, and we are excited to have the opportunity to participate in the effort to develop an improved TB vaccine," said David Lewinsohn.

The NIAID classifies multiple-drug-resistant TB as a category C bioterrorism agent because it is highly contagious, easily released in the air and can have 50 percent to 90 percent mortality rate. Whe

Contact: Christine Pashley
Oregon Health & Science University

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