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Last Updated

16 Sep 2003

Source: Newsday, September 7, 2003

Schools to Develop Bioterrorism Vaccines

By JULIE HALENAR, Associated Press Writer

BALTIMORE -- The University of Maryland School of Medicine has been chosen to lead a multi-school effort to develop vaccines to protect against bioterrorism, the school announced Thursday.

The Middle Atlantic region will receive a five-year, $42 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Besides creating vaccines to guard against anthrax, smallpox and West Nile virus, they will study antibodies that could produce short-term protection.

"The events of 9-11 and the anthrax attacks that followed made it clear that there are nefarious people out there," Dr. Myron M. Levine, who is the regional leader. "We have also come to realize that we are extremely vulnerable and to a great extent unprepared for biological attacks. It is critical for us to develop preventive vaccines to protect ourselves."

Levine of the University of Maryland School of Medicine will be in charge of the collaboration of 16 research institutions -- such as Johns Hopkins University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Virginia, Georgetown University, George Washington University, West Virginia University and University of Pittsburgh. He will guide more than 60 scientists at three facilities in the region.

"Its like being an orchestra leader," Levine said. "It's my job to try to get everyone to play together to make a very special sound."

The regional researchers will study viruses that cause hemorrhage fever, such as ebola and Marburg, and target E. coli and shigella, bacteria considered to be threats because a small amount causes severe illness.

Researches will also design better diagnostic tests and needle-free vaccinations for fast response to a biological attack or infectious disease outbreak.

University of Maryland, Baltimore president David J. Ramsay said the university has established itself as a national leader in homeland security and biodefense research.

After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Center for Vaccine Development had clinical trials on the effectiveness of the nation's smallpox vaccine.

Eight centers, with a lead institute and affiliated schools, will share about $350 million over five years.

The other centers are Duke University, Harvard Medical School, New York State Department of Health, University of Chicago, University of Texas Medical Branch, University of Washington and Washington University in St. Louis.