Established in 1999, the Ruy V. Lourenço Center for Emerging and Re-Emerging Pathogens supports and fosters collaborative and translational research in infectious diseases that are increasing in frequency and/or becoming resistant to current therapies. Laboratory research at the Center is currently supported by $6.7 million in extramural support, over 90 percent of which is NIH funded. The nationally recognized faculty of the Center are experts in their fields of research and their collaborative approach continues to generate new discoveries and novel ideas.
Major projects in the Center include studies of drug-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and tuberculosis immunity and transmission; bacterial-parasite coinfection; the development of predatory bacteria as novel antimicrobial therapeutic approach; the development of advanced and rapid methods to detect infections both for biodefense and non-defense purposes; investigations of HIV biology and biochemistry aimed at developing new drugs to treat HIV infections; antibacterial drug discovery in pathogens of high medical significance, including agents with potential weapons potential. Members of the Center are involved in public health and biodefense policy in national and international arenas, and also lead clinical investigations of tuberculosis transmission, pathogenesis, immunity and strain variation at overseas sites in Uganda, India, Mexico and Brazil. The investigators of the Center are funded by the NIH, the DoD, private industry, and other agencies; their total research budget for FY2105 was $14m.
The Center houses the laboratories of Drs. Alland, Connell and Salgame, as well as a biosafety level three (BSL-3) containment facility for work with Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The BSL-3 facility occupies 725 square feet and has four rooms (3 modules with 102 class II biosafety cabinets, , accessed through the 'common room') used for biohazardous work, plus an anteroom. The common room is a support area, containing freezers, an ELISA reader, a flow cytometer, a luminometer, a MGIT reader, a fluorescent microscope and a computer along with other standard laboratory equipment including a pass-through autoclave and isolated sink. This facility is open for use by all investigators studying respiratory pathogens with the exception of Select Agents.
Dr. Alland has been the principal investigator of multiple NIH grants relating to tuberculosis and biodefense. He is currently the Scientific Director of the TB – Clinical Diagnostics Research Consortium (CDRC), a member of the Tuberculosis Transformative Science Group of the AIDS Clinical Trials Group Network, and is a member of the NIH Clinical Research and Field Studies (CRFS) study section. For the past 20 years, Dr. Alland has directed a laboratory devoted to studying M. tuberculosis molecular epidemiology and phylogenetics, drug resistance and persistence, and advanced molecular diagnostics.
He has a proven track record of successfully developing and then applying advanced molecular approaches to study infectious diseases. This includes a series of projects, each led by Dr. Alland, which produced the Xpert MTB/RIF assay, the first near-patient, on-demand diagnostic test for tuberculosis and resistance to rifampicin. Highly relevant to the current application, Dr. Alland identified the iniBAC operon as the first genetic cause of drug-tolerance in M. tuberculosis, and characterized its complex regulation. He also has extensive experience investigating the genetic causes of drug resistant M. tuberculosis. Dr. Alland has collaborated with Dr. Jerrold Ellner for decades, starting with his involvement in the original TBRU. He has also had extensive long-term collaborations and experience in studying the mechanisms of drug action, drug resistance and persistence, and molecular diagnostics.
The major research focus is antibacterial drug discovery in respiratory pathogens such as M. tuberculosis and B. anthracis. Recent work also focuses on the use of predatory bacteria as novel therapeutics for bacterial infections. Her work is funded by the Department of Dr. Connell has served on a number of committees of the National Academy of Sciences, e.g., Trends in Science and Technology Relevant to the Biological Weapons Convention; an International Workshop (2010), and the Committee to Review the Scientific Approaches used in the FBI's Investigation of the 2001 Bacillus anthracis Mailings (2011).
Dr. Connell has considerable experience and interest in pedagogy, with a focus on ethics education and the responsible conduct of research: she is currently chairing NRC “Standing Committee for Faculty Development for Education about Research with Dual Use Issues in the Context of Responsible Science and Research Integrity”, which has directed a series of workshops held in the Middle East and North Africa. Dr. Connell was recently appointed a member of the Board on Life Sciences of the National Academies of Sciences.
Dr. Salgame leads an experimental research laboratory that studies host immunity to Tuberculosis. She has made important contributions to the field of host immune responses against mycobacterial infections, which includes having been the first to demonstrate the presence of human T-helper 1 and T-helper 2 subsets.
Dr. Salgame runs a highly productive research program which has been continually well-funded by the National Institutes of Health. New research led by Dr. Salgame has established a connection between tuberculosis and infection by parasitic worms, a frequent occurrence in much of the world. In addition to studying experimental models of TB, Dr. Salgame’s laboratory also studies human tuberculosis with an emphasis on discovery of biomarkers for risk of progression to TB disease in latently-infected individuals. Her laboratory is also studying the innate immune mechanisms that protect individuals from M. tuberculosis infection following exposure. She has collaborated extensively with Drs. Ellner and Alland since 2004.
Dr. Salgame is Co-investigator on the International Collaboration for Infectious Disease (ICDR) research led by Dr. Ellner. She is also collaborating with Dr. Ellner on the NIAID’s US-Indo Vaccine Program, a component of the Regional Prospective Observational Research for Tuberculosis (RePORT-India) Consortium. Dr. Salgame has a successful record of collaborations, extensive experience in studying host immunity in experimental models of TB, and human immunology.
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