$37 million to extend regional biodefense and emerging infectious diseases research

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has extended funding for the Midwest Regional Center for Excellence in Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases (MRCE), anchored at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. The center received a five-year, $37 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to continue to support basic and translational research in biodefense and emerging infectious diseases throughout the Midwest.

The MRCE, established in 2003, is one of 11 Regional Centers of Excellence dedicated to developing new or improved ways to treat, diagnose or prevent diseases that could be use for bioterrorism, such as anthrax, or infectious diseases, like West Nile fever, plague and dengue fever. The RCEs also provide scientific expertise to first responders in an infectious disease-related emergency, whether it occurs naturally or through an act of bioterrorism.

“The continued NIH support is a vote of confidence in the significant accomplishments of the MRCE,” says Samuel L. Stanley, M.D., vice chancellor for research at Washington University and director of the MRCE. “The research being conducted in our Midwest center could have a very real impact on security in this region.”

MRCE researchers have focused their efforts on understanding innate immunity, a type of built-in protection against certain microbial assaults, and exploring infections caused by West Nile virus and poxviruses, which include smallpox. Additionally, they have worked to improve the safety of vaccines, discover new viruses, and develop new antiviral therapies and ways to stimulate the innate immune response to broadly block the harmful effects of numerous pathogens.

The MRCE is a consortium of institutions that include Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland Clinic/Lerner Research Institute, the University of Iowa, Saint Louis University, Kansas State University, Iowa State University, the Midwest Research Institute and the University of Missouri – Columbia. It now also has an international research arm, with collaborations in Africa and China.

Washington University School of Medicine’s 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked third in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.