08 Sep UW-Madison Gets Federal Biodefense Funds
MADISON, WI – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced last week the development of eight Regional Centers of Excellence (RCE) for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases Research. The University of Wisconsin-Madison is collaborating with 11 other Midwestern institutions to form the Midwestern center as part of a $350 million national initiative. The Midwestern center, based at the University of Chicago and Northwestern University will receive $35 million in funding over the next five years
Rodney Welch, UW-Madison professor and chair of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, whose project will study botulism, said “it’s quite a shot in the arm for agents that are understudied because they are not very common in the United States.
“We have moved with unprecedented speed and determination to prepare for a bioterror attack or any other public health crisis since the terrorist attacks of 2001,” HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said. “These new grants add to this effort and will not only better prepare us for a bioterrorism attack, but will also enhance our ability to deal with any public health crisis, such as SARS and West Nile virus.”
The Midwestern center will focus on development of diagnostic, therapeutic and vaccine products for anthrax, botulism, tularemia, hemorrhagic fever viruses and plague. Such research, based on genomics, proteomics and a molecular-level understanding of cell function, is expected to have far-reaching public-health consequences during the next decade and beyond. More than a dozen UW-Madison faculty and staff will be involved in the work.
Welch said that the anthrax scare in the United States, which started in October 2001, was the catalyst for the formation of these centers. “This was borne out of the anthrax situation. On many different levels we didn’t know how to handle it, so it was a wake-up call,” Welch said.
UW-Madison is an ideal institution to bring its expertise to the center, he said. “One of the reasons we got this award is that we’re perceived as one of the best communities in the nation in microbiology,” Welch said.