$11.3M grant strengthens attack against zoonotic disease

A newly funded research center will bring a multidisciplinary approach to understanding how infectious diseases behave, K-State says

A newly funded research center aims to provide greater understanding on the spread of emerging and zoonotic infectious diseases.

A team of Kansas State University (K-State) veterinary researchers have received a five-year, $11.3-million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The funding, awarded under the institute’s Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) program, will be used to establish a new Center on Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (CEZID).

“Our projects will examine virulence factors and host-pathogen interactions of various pathogens, utilizing both basic and translational approaches in in vitro systems and in models,” says Jürgen Richt, DVM, PhD, a regents distinguished professor at K-State and eminent scholar in its college of veterinary medicine, who will serve as the center’s director.

“The overarching goal of the CEZID is to advance our overall understanding of emerging and zoonotic infectious diseases based on research performed in the state of Kansas.”

According to Dr. Richt: the center’s research projects and programs will be supported by two core facilities:

  • animal model/pathology; and
  • molecular and cellular biology.

“The truly unique and competitive advantage of the CEZID program is that it brings a multipronged and multidisciplinary approach to understanding and attacking zoonotic infectious diseases,” says Peter Dorhout, PhD, vice president for research at K-State. “Our ability to better understand how these diseases behave, which include the family of coronaviruses that comprises our current global pandemic, will enable our researchers to create rapid responses to future calamitous outbreaks that affect both human and animal health.

“These teams will deliver science-based solutions to improve people’s lives.”

The success and growth of CEZID will be nurtured through various programs, which Richt says will be the basis by which research productivity is enabled and supported. These include:

  • a faculty mentoring program for research project leaders;
  • a new K-State faculty recruitment within the center’s mission space to ensure the growth and sustainability of CEZID;
  • a pilot grant program that will promote center growth through the funding of smaller projects at universities in the state of Kansas; and
  • a regional scientific network to provide interdisciplinary and interinstitutional collaborations and ensure increased usage of CEZID’s core facilities and access to additional core facilities, as well as training opportunities at universities in Kansas and surrounding states.

“In this era, interest in the control of the spread of infectious diseases is obviously of substantial importance both within the scientific community and in the general population,” says Philip Hardwidge, PhD, BS, who will serve as CEZID’s associate director. “We believe this center can greatly expand our general ability to respond effectively to future outbreaks.”

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