Jan. 9, 2003
Vol. 22 No. 7

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    University, ANL seek funding for regional center for biodefense

    By Steve Koppes
    News Office

    The University, Argonne National Laboratory and Northwestern University are leading a group of 13 upper-Midwestern universities and hospitals in seeking $120 million in funding for a regional center of excellence for biodefense and emerging diseases as well as a regional biocontainment laboratory.

    The Chicago proposals come in response to the National Institutes of Health’s request for a $1.8 billion budget increase in 2003 for work in biodefense and related areas of biotechnology.

    Such research, based on genomics, proteomics and a molecular-level understanding of cell function, is expected to have profound and far-reaching consequences over the next decade and beyond.

    The NIH is planning to fund no more than four regional centers and four to six regional laboratories.

    The proposal for a Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Diseases alone could result in awards of $100 million over 10 years. The center would be designed to detect, prevent or treat biological hazards such as anthrax, botulism, smallpox and the plague.

    Leading the effort is Olaf Schneewind, Professor in Molecular Genetics & Cell Biology and the Biological Sciences Collegiate Division.

    A Regional Biocontainment Laboratory, to be located at Argonne National Laboratory, would support the center. It is designed to safely conduct research on microbes that cause potentially lethal diseases, and it would provide the advantage of proximity to Argonne’s advanced facilities in computation, proteomics and the Advanced Photon Source.

    The lab would institute stringent precautions to protect the people who work there, as well as those who live or work near it. In case of a bioterrorism emergency, it would be available and prepared to assist national, state and local public health experts.