$15 Million Grant to Study Viral Outbreaks

NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) https://www.niaid.nih.gov has provided The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) www.scripps.edu, a not-for-profit organization, focused on research in the biomedical sciences with a new $15 million grant (1U19AI135995) to study survivors of viral outbreaks.

“NIAID is supporting TSRI’s Center for Viral Systems Biology www.cvisb.org to fight Ebola and Lassa viruses”, according to Kirsten Anderson PhD Principal Investigator, Assistant Professor at TSRI, and Director of Infectious Disease Genomics at the Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI).

She reports, “While virus outbreaks are rare, the 2013-2016 epidemic in West Africa infected more than 28,000 people, killing more than 10,000. The Lassa virus causes recurring outbreaks in West Africa which are killing thousands of people a year.”

Researchers are going to spend the next five years collecting large amounts of data from Ebola and Lassa survivors to learn how to they fought off the virus. Previously large-scale projects have been done to track the geographic spread and evolution of viruses using genomic analysis, but now researchers are planning to use genomic analysis and other advanced tools to study why it was possible for some patients to survive the disease.

Dr. Anderson said, the funding will support a new project that will build on ten years of highly collaborative work in Sierra Leone, West Africa, where research facilities have been built. TSRI is going to collaborate with the Center for Viral Systems Biology to work with researchers at the Kenema Government Hospital in Sierra Leona http://vhfc.org/consortium/partners/kgh, Tulane University http://tulane.edu, University of California, Los Angeles www.ucla.edu, and Ragon Institute www.ragoninstitute.org affiliated with MIT.

The researchers will also continue to work closely with local scientists and staff in Kenema and the Ministry of Health and Sanitation in Sierra Leone http://health.gov.sl. Dr. Andersen said, “Focusing on capacity building and working closely with local partners as part of large-scale international collaborations is critical for a study like this one to be successful.”

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