Public Release: 

NIH invests $46 million in regional consortium for emerging infectious disease research

Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health professor to direct activities at 28 institutions in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut

Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health

June 8, 2009, New York, NY--W. Ian Lipkin, MD, John Snow Professor of Epidemiology and director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at the Mailman School of Public Health and professor of Neurology and Pathology at Columbia University Medical Center, will direct the activities of the Northeast Biodefense Center, a consortium of more than 350 scientists and 28 institutions in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut and one of the National Institutes of Health's Regional Centers of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health has received approximately $46 million from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to support research and training initiatives throughout the consortium. Arturo Casadevall, MD, PhD, Leo and Julia Forchheimer Professor and Chair of Microbiology & Immunology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, will serve as deputy director of the consortium.

The Northeast Biodefense Center (NBC), established in 2002, is the largest of the 11 Regional Centers of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases in the nation. It is not a single "center" but, in fact, a regional collaboration of major centers including Cornell University, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, Public Health Research Institute, Rockefeller University, Stony Brook, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Wadsworth Center New York State Department of Health, and Yale University, led by the Mailman School of Public Health.

NBC investigators conduct interdisciplinary, inter-institutional research on diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines to address the challenges of emerging infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance. Academic researchers collaborate with the private sector to provide additional intellectual capital and resources to help moving discoveries from laboratories to practical application in protecting human health and society's welfare. Regional Centers of Excellence also establish relationships with national and international public health agencies that provide unique access to insights and clinical materials. Highlights over the past few years include creation of diagnostics used to guide containment of the SARS outbreak in Beijing in 2003, insights into pandemic influenza based on new understanding of the 1918 influenza virus, and the development of new vaccines and drugs for emerging infectious diseases.

According to Dr. Lipkin, "Through this regional collaboration, we have worked together across disciplines and institutions to develop diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines to address the medical challenges of emerging infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance. These collaborations have enabled insights into such emerging health risks, as well as tools to detect, prevent, and treat infectious diseases. With the increased globalization of our society, the need for this type of research has never been greater."

Dr. Casadevall adds, "The magic of the NBC is that it has brought for the first time many regional institutions that had no history of collaboration in a joint effort to protect our society from a wide range of emerging infectious diseases. Groups that previously had never interacted are now working together to develop diagnostics, vaccines, and drugs against many types of infectious diseases. The net result has been greater progress, communication, coordination, and preparedness to meet existing and future biological threats to our health and wellbeing."

"This consortium, under Dr. Lipkin's leadership, is an extraordinary example of the translation of cutting-edge science for maximum benefit to the health of communities. This is a vital function of public health science to benefit us all," says Linda P. Fried, MD, MPH, dean and DeLamar Professor at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. "Cooperation, discovery, and shared knowledge are critical to our ability to address the pressing public health challenges that we face locally and globally."

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For more information on the Northeast Biodefense Center see www.nbc.columbia.edu

About the Mailman School of Public Health

The only accredited school of public health in New York City and among the first in the nation, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health pursues an agenda of research, education, and service to address the critical and complex public health issues affecting millions of people locally and globally. The Mailman School is the recipient of some of the largest government and private grants in Columbia University's history. Its more than 1000 graduate students pursue master's and doctoral degrees, and the School's 300 multi-disciplinary faculty members work in more than 100 countries around the world, addressing such issues as infectious and chronic diseases, health promotion and disease prevention, environmental health, maternal and child health, health over the life course, health policy, and public health preparedness. www.mailman.columbia.edu

The Center for Infection and Immunity at the Mailman School is dedicated to global research and training programs focused on pathogen surveillance and discovery, and to understanding how gene-environment-timing interactions contribute to health and disease. www.cii.columbia.edu

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