University of Rochester gets $20 million for new bio-terrorism modeling centers

Published 16 November 2005

Staying a step ahead of potential terrorists — or possibly mother nature — through laboratory studies of biological agents would seem to be the best way to prepare for a future attack or pandemic. The risk of an experimental pathogen escaping and causing the very scenario that the experimenters were trying to avert is a serious downside of such studies, though. Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, New York, will take a safer route through two new $10 million grants for computer-based biological modeling projects. These new grants bring to $41 million the sum the center has received within two months for anti-terror research (a September grant will focus on emergency medical treatment following a dirty bomb radiation attack).

The two newest grants both come from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). The first will establish a Center for Biodefense Immune Modeling, researching mathematical models and computer simulations for how the body responds to influenza A and smallpox. The second grant will establish the Program for Biodefense of Immunocompromised Populations, focusing on measures that can be taken to protect people with less functional immune systems, such as children, the ill and the elderly. The center will initially focus on rheumatoid arthritis, and how the immune system weakness that is a common side effect of treatment might be reversed. The two centers will be led by Hulin Wu, professor and division chief, Department of Biostatistics and Computational Biology, and I. Sanz, chief of the Division of Clinical Immunology & Rheumatology at the Medical Center, respectively.

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