Center for Infectious Disease Research

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News

 April 25, 2012: Researcher to Study Bacteria Responsible for Common Disease in Developing Countries

The Medical College of Wisconsin received a two-year, $420,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to investigate Leptospira, the bacteria that cause leptospirosis. Leptospirosis is a significant illness in agricultural regions and areas of urban decay and poverty in the developing world.

Jenifer L. Coburn, PhD, Professor of Medicine (Infectious Diseases), member of CIDR, and secondary faculty in Microbiology & Molecular Genetics, is the primary investigator of the grant.

Leptospira bacteria can be carried by most mammals. The bacteria are often spread to humans through wildlife, companion animals, particularly dogs, and livestock; water contaminated with animal urine poses a major challenge in preventing the infection from spreading. As a disease, leptospirosis varies widely in severity in humans, with age, underlying health status and the virulence of the particular Leptospira strains all contributing to the symptoms that emerge in any single case. In its most severe form, leptospirosis can produce fatal kidney failure or hemorrhage.

The leptospira bacteria are thought to make people and animals sick by attaching to and altering the biology of cells.  Attachment to cells is also critical to the ability of the bacteria to cause persistent infections in animals, resulting in the animals serving as carriers of the bacteria. In this study, Dr. Coburn seeks to identify the specific molecules the bacteria use to attach to cell surfaces.

By combining this information with recent advances in understanding Leptospira’s genetics, Dr. Coburn’s research may contribute to future development of improved vaccines and therapies.

 December 27, 2011: Dr Coburn Receives Grant to Focus on Lyme Disease

Source: Medical College of Wisconsin World Newsletter article
 

The Medical College of Wisconsin has received a $1.9 million, five-year grant from the National Institute of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to study the bacteria that cause Lyme disease.

Jenifer L. Coburn, PhD, Professor of Medicine (Infectious Disease), is the primary investigator of the grant.

Wisconsin is one of the states with a high incidence of Lyme disease, with 20,000 cases being diagnosed since tracking began in 1980. In the United States, 30,000 cases were diagnosed in 2010. Many patients are not diagnosed for weeks or months, and untreated cases can lead to permanent neurological impairment.

In this research project, Dr. Coburn will study a protein named P66, which is a part of the bacterium which causes Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi.  P66 has been shown to be critical to the ability of the bacterium to cause infection in mammals. Learning more about this protein and the way it contributes to infection could lead to novel approaches to prevention and early treatment of Lyme disease.

 March 29, 2010:  Dr. Christopher Kristich Receives Award to Research Drug-resistant Bacteria

Source: Medical College of Wisconsin World Newsletter article

 

Christopher J. Kristich, PhD, Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, has received a National Institutes of Health Director’s New Innovator Award. The five-year, $2.3 million grant will support research on antibiotic-resistant bacteria, addressing the crisis of escalating hospital-acquired bacterial infections.

The NIH Director’s New Innovator Award recognizes new investigators for their creativity and the innovativeness of their research methods as well as the project’s potential impact on an important biomedical or behavioral research problem. Dr. Kristich was one of 54 investigators nationwide who received an award in 2009.

Dr. Kristich is also lead researcher for a five-year, $1.9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for an investigation of Enterococcus faecalis – one of the more common antibiotic-resistant bacteria responsible for hospital-associated infections.

Infections that cannot be controlled by antibiotics can progress rapidly, leading to pneumonia, meningitis, sepsis and other life-threatening conditions. Each year, 99,000 U.S. deaths are caused by hospital-associated infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the number is rising.

The increase in hospital-acquired infections is due in part to advances in medical care. Widespread use of antibiotics to combat these infections has caused existing antibiotics to lose their effectiveness against common bacteria. Because of their natural occurrence in the human body and their increasing resistance to treatments, these bacteria have become prevalent in hospital settings where, through contact with health care workers, they are spread from patient to patient.

The New Innovator Award will help Dr. Kristich identify how bacterial proteins interact to promote antibiotic resistance.

The overall goal of Dr. Kristich’s research is to enhance basic understanding of antibiotic resistant bacteria to facilitate development of new treatments against deadly infections.

 March 4, 2010:  Dr. Dara Frank Elected to the American Academy of Microbiology

Source: Medical College of Wisconsin World Newsletter article
 

Dara W. Frank, PhD, Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics and Director of the Medical College's Center for Infectious Disease Research, has been elected to Fellowship in the American Academy of Microbiology. Seventy-eight microbiologists nationwide received this honor.

Fellows of the academy are elected annually through a highly selective, peer-review process based on their records of scientific achievement and original contributions that have advanced microbiology.

 March 11, 2009:  State's Medical Research Could Bring Tens of Millions

Source: 3/11/2009 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
 

Two faculty from the Microbiology and Molecular Genetics department were featured in an article by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  Both Dr. Dara Frank and Dr. Li Wu discuss applications for NIH funding made possible by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  Dr. Frank's proposal is for a cell sorting machine, and Dr. Wu is seeking grants to further his lab's HIV research.

 

Read the full article

 October 1, 2007:  College Receives Grant on Relationship of Bacterial Pathogens and Host Cells

Source: 10/1/2007 Medical College of Wisconsin World Newsletter article

The Medical College of Wisconsin has received a five-year, $1.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study the injection of toxins into epithelial cells by a bacterial pathogen. These studies may ultimately provide opportunities to develop therapeutics that prevent damage to tissues and limit bacterial growth. The grant is from the NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Dara W. Frank, PhD, Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, is principal investigator for the grant. Dr. Frank is also director of the Medical College's Center for Infectious Diseases Research.

She believes that the localization of a cofactor for membrane integrity may govern the toxin's biologic activities and promote either colonization or spreading at certain stages of bacterial invasion. Understanding how eukaryotic elements critical to bacterial toxin activity work together will allow the development of inhibitors that interrupt the natural progression to serious infections. This may result in a combination of therapies that could help patients who are critically ill or in the early stages of chronic infection.

 March 20, 2006:  Medical College Receives NIAID Grant to Study Infectious Bacterium

Source: 3/20/2006 Medical College of Wisconsin World Newsletter article

The Medical College of Wisconsin has received a five-year, $378,750 grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to find the factors that make the bacterium Francisella tularensis highly infectious. Infection with this bacterium can cause tularemia, a plague-like disease primarily found in rodents that can be transferred to humans.

Dara Frank, PhD, Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, is principal investigator of the grant, titled Regulation of Gene Expression in Francisella. Dr. Frank is also director of the Medical College's Center for Infectious Disease Research. Thomas C. Zahrt, PhD, Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, is a co-investigator.

There is currently no licensed vaccine to protect against F. tularensis infections, to which humans are highly susceptible. The bacterium can enter a host through broken skin, the eyes, throat or lungs. Additionally, the bacterium was turned into a weapon in the past, making the development of vaccines and the identification of therapeutic agents particularly urgent.

The goal of this research is to genetically engineer strains of this bacterium suitable for the design of a new vaccine.

 June 14, 2004:  New Antibody Drug Takes Aim at Multi-drug Resistant Pseudomonas Infections

Source: 6/14/2004 Medical College of Wisconsin World Newsletter

KaloBios, a therapeutic antibody company, has exclusively in-licensed a preclinical antibody drug and its intellectual property portfolio for the clinically relevant pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa. A team of researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin and the University of California, San Francisco, developed the antibody, which cripples the microbes that have become increasingly resistant to antibiotics.

Multi-drug resistant Pseudomonas is one of the most serious and difficult hospital-acquired infections to treat and affects patients with ventilator-associated pneumonia, cystic fibrosis, low white cell counts, burns and diabetic ulcers.

There are approximately 665,000 patients placed on ventilators in the United States each year, and approximately 200,000 develop pneumonia. The additional patient costs associated with pneumonia in the intensive care unit is $40,000 per patient.

"We are delighted that our findings can move to the next step that could lead to a drug aimed at helping thousands of patients," said Dara Frank, PhD, Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at the Medical College of Wisconsin, Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and lead researcher.

The monoclonal antibody has a unique target mechanism. It neutralizes the action of the PcrV protein of the type III secretion system, inhibiting a key disease-causing process of Pseudomonas. Because the target mechanism is different from that of other antibiotics, cross-resistance is not observed.

Independent research from two groups published in the Journal of Infectious Disease in 2001 and Critical Care Medicine in 2002 directly link the expression of the type III secretion system to poor clinical outcome in Pseudomonas lung infections.

KaloBios is using its proprietary antibody technology to engineer a high affinity human antibody against the PcrV protein that is more potent than the original mouse antibody. The company expects to complete the antibody engineering work by mid-2004 and enter a lead compound into IND Track development at that time.

"We are happy that the Medical College and UCSF have both entrusted KaloBios with the development of this potentially valuable drug. It fits perfectly into the profile of KaloBios' pipeline, where our technology can rapidly generate human antibodies from rodent antibodies that have excellent preclinical validation," said Dr. Geoffrey Yarranton, CEO of KaloBios. The antibody will be used as both a prophylactic and as a treatment for Pseudomonas infections in ventilator-associated pneumonia and cystic fibrosis patients.

"We are excited with KaloBios' capability to engineer and move this drug to the clinic as quickly as possible. People need new approaches to treat infections by this formidable and versatile pathogen", said Jeanine Wiener-Kronish MD, professor of anesthesiology at UCSF.

 November 3, 2003:  Center For Infectious Disease Research Part of Regional Grant

11/3/2003 Medical College of Wisconsin World Newsletter The Center for Infectious Disease Research (CIDR) is part of the Region V Great Lakes Regional Center of Excellence $35 million award to expand research in the detection and prevention of infectious diseases caused by agents developed as bioweapons as well as new and emerging viral and bacterial organisms. Part of the five-year, $4.7 million award to the Medical College will be used to subcontract work to the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Illinois at Champagne/Urbana. Subcontracts have also been awarded to bolster the public health infrastructure of the region to ensure that a well-informed and well-coordinated first-response plan is in place should the need arise. Participating institutions, in addition to the Medical College, are the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, the Argonne National Laboratory, the Battelle Memorial Institute, the Illinois Institute of Technology Research Institute, Mayo Clinic, Michigan State University, the University of Notre Dame, Purdue University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Paula Traktman, PhD; Chairman and Walter Schroeder Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, serves on the executive board of the Region V Great Lakes Regional Center of Excellence, housed at the University of Chicago. The Medical College Center for Infectious Disease Research was recently established in response to the pressing need for the development of diagnostics, therapies and vaccines to combat the threat of biological agents as tools of terrorism and the recent emergence of exotic imported infectious diseases. Michael J. Dunn, MD, Dean and Executive Vice-President, named Dara W. Frank,PhD, Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, director of the CIDR. The CIDR will provide an organizational structure and administrative governance for research, education and training programs focused on research in select agents and chronic and emerging infectious diseases. As a partner in the Region V National Center of Excellence, the CIDR will also serve as a coordination point for the National Institutes of Health initiative to consolidate biodefense research and response capabilities in Wisconsin. The concept of the Center for Infectious Disease Research was a natural outgrowth of ongoing infectious disease and biodefense activities on the Medical College campus" said Dr. Dunn. The Medical College has nationally recognized research programs in smallpox, tuberculosis and toxins, as well as microbial, viral, and parasitic disease processes, immunological response to infection, vaccine development and diagnostics. These activities, combined with the Medical College's state-of-the-art technology platforms in bioinformatics, genomics, proteomics, functional imaging, advanced microscopy and structural biology, will facilitate the integration of faculty researchers and physicians in a nation-wide effort to develop the next generation of drugs and treatments. "The anthrax attacks of late 2001 put the scientific and public health communities in the spotlight and revealed considerable gaps in the nation's ability to respond to uncommon biological agents" says Dr. Frank. In formulating the response strategy to bioterrorism, a National Institutes of Health blue ribbon panel set out broad objectives that reach beyond biodefense and constitute a reinvigoration of infectious disease research. We anticipate that institutional support of the Center for Infectious Disease Research will allow initiation of projects directly related to biodefense, as well as others of new importance to human health. For example, we anticipate new support will be gained for the study of locally emerging pathogens, such as hepatitis C, monkey pox, and West Nile virus. The CIDR's ultimate goal is to improve human health through the development of new diagnostic tests and therapies for these novel infectious diseases. A listing of some of the studies currently being coordinated through the Center will appear in next week's World.

 November 10, 2003:  Variety of Research Studies Conducted Through the Center for Infectious Disease Research

Source: 11/10/2003 Medical College of Wisconsin World Newsletter
Note: This article is a continuation of the November 3, 2003 article.

The Medical College's Center for Infectious Disease Research (CIDR), directed by Dara W. Frank, PhD, Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, is part of a Region V Great Lakes Center of Excellence $35 million grant. The award will expand research in the detection and prevention of infectious diseases caused by agents developed as bioweapons, as well as new and emerging viral and bacterial organisms. (See Nov. 3 World)
Several faculty research studies are being coordinated through the Medical College CIDR. These include a core project to create a federally designated Biosafety Level-3 laboratory at the Medical College. Examples of research by Medical College faculty include:

  . . Paula Traktman, PhD, Chairman and Walter Schroeder Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, has received funding to explore essential genes for poxvirus replication. These gene products could serve as new targets for anti-viral therapies.

  . . Robert Fritz, PhD, Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics; Russell S. Gonnering, MD, Professor of Ophthalmology; Bernd Remler, MD, Chief and Professor of Neurology; Karen Blindauer, MD, Associate Professor of Neurology; John McGuire, MD, Assistant Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation; and Dr. Frank.

  . . Thomas Zahrt, PhD, Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, who has been working on drug-resistant tuberculosis, and Dr. Frank are co-investigators on a developmental project to identify virulence factors in the bacterium that causes tularemia, an agent that was developed as a bioweapon in the 1960s. The infection is rare, but does occur in the western part of the United States, Northern Europe and Russia. Their goal is to develop a subunit vaccine for immunization to protect against infections if this agent is used as a tool of terrorism.

  . . Seth Foldy, MD, Associate Clinical Professor of Family and Community Medicine and Milwaukee Health Commissioner, will work with his counterparts across the Region V to make sure that the resources of this multi-university network become available to public health officials and clinicians in an emergency. At the same time, he will advise Center researchers about practical findings and needs of the public health community, especially first line responders.
With its broad research themes, the CIDR's ultimate goal is to improve human health through the development of new diagnostic tests and therapies for these novel infectious diseases.

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