Researchers at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech have received a $10.6 million federal grant to understand how the human immune system responds to infections and disease-causing organisms in the gut, according to a news release issued yesterday.
The five year grant from the The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, will be used to apply mathematical computer-based modeling to the study of such lovely conditions as persistent diarrhea and ulcers. Ultimately the goal is to understand intestinal diseases enough to identify drugs that could prevent and treat various diseases. Besides diarrhea and ulcers, the efforts could also target gastric cancer and inflammation.
Josep Bassaganya-Riera, associate professor at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, leader of the Nutritional Immunology and Molecular Medicine group in the institute’s CyberInfrastructure Division, and principal investigator of the Center for Modeling Immunity to Enteric Pathogens, is leading the study.
These are disease that not only impact our lives and the lives of people we know, but also have a huge impact on global health. The Virginia Tech researchers plan to work with collaborators, including some at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, to help further the study of human immunity to infection or vaccination.
“Escalating medical costs, lost productivity, and premature death are linked to annual outbreaks of pathogens that target the intestinal tract of humans,” said Richard Guerrant, director for the Center of Global Health in the Division of Infectious Diseases and International Health at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, in the news release. “This project sets out to address the need for more informed scientific research that translates into effective clinical solutions for gastrointestinal infections. It should open novel approaches to providing much needed health solutions to individuals in both developing and industrialized countries.”