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Tufts E-News --Tufts Wins $25 Million Bioterrorism Grant

Tufts E-News --Tufts Wins $25 Million Bioterrorism GrantFunding will help researchers at Tufts’ Veterinary School to study ways to detect and treat diseases that could pollute the nation’s food and water supply. No. Grafton, Mass.

No. Grafton, Mass. [10.03.03] The newest advances in the nation's bioterrorism defenses may come from an unexpected - but important - source: veterinarians. Funded by the largest research grant Tufts has ever received, scientists at the School of Veterinary Medicine will study food- and water-borne illnesses as part of a new nation-wide integrated research network.

"Tufts has received a $25 million government contract to study ways to detect, identify and treat diseases terrorists could use to pollute the nation's food and water supply," reported the Associated Press. "Tufts will establish one of five national research locations as part of a seven-year contract from the National Institutes of Health awarded this week, school officials announced."

The research will focus on 13 microorganisms - including salmonella, E. coli, Cryptosporidium and the Norwalk virus - that could be used to infect large numbers of people and animals.

"This award recognizes the important role that veterinarians play in addressing public health threats," said Tufts President Lawrence S. Bacow. "Nearly 76 million illnesses and 5,000 deaths every year in the U.S. are due to food-borne pathogens alone - so our ability to quickly diagnose and treat food- and water-borne pathogens are of paramount importance. This research will play a critical role in protecting our country from bioterrorist threats."

Through the grant, Tufts will establish a Microbiology Research Unit in the new nationwide Food and Waterborne Disease Integrated Research Network. Saul Tzipori - an internationally-renowned expert on microbiology and infectious diseases at Tufts - will lead the research initiative.

"This is part of homeland security," Tzipori told the Associated Press. "The government is really investing a lot of money into building up our biodefenses."

As part of the project, Tufts researchers will work with the University of Massachusetts researchers to develop the Center of Botulinum Therapies Research and Development, the first of its kind in the United States - which will focus on diagnosing and treating botulism poisoning, one of the most dangerous bioterrorism threats facing the United States and the world today.

"This center will place us at the forefront of the national biodefense effort to safeguard our food and water sources," Tzipori said. "We are especially pleased to be working with our UMass colleagues to advance knowledge in this area."

Tzipori added that the NIH contract also will help consolidate Tufts' plan to establish a food and waterborne pathogen research center that includes a regional water testing facility.

The other four units funded in FY'03 are at academic research centers in Michigan, Maryland, New York and Washington State. The research focus of the four units include microbiology, zoonoses and immunology. All of the units will evaluate vaccines, therapeutics, rapid diagnostic methods, body defenses, and microbiology and ecology of diseases transmitted between humans and animals.

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