La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology wins $25 million contract from National Institutes of Health

San Diego 20 April 2004The La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology (LIAI) has received a seven-year, $25 million contract from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to develop an Immune Epitope Database. Data from the project will allow researchers around the world to quickly access key information on the way the body responds to microbes, especially those that are responsible for emerging infectious diseases, such as SARS and West Nile virus, or that are part of potential bioterrorist threats.

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An epitope is a small site on a larger molecule that is the focus of an immune response. The database, of which a prototype will be available within a year, will provide scientists around the world with the ability to gather and analyse data and to share information with peers in an unprecedented manner. It will provide an important tool for understanding the immune response to disease-causing microorganisms and for the development and improvement of vaccines.

"Our work will describe in precise molecular terms the body's reactions to these microbes", stated Alessandro Sette, Ph.D., LIAI's lead scientist on the project. "This resource will assist researchers in measuring immune reactions, developing diagnostic methods, designing and evaluating new vaccines, understanding how certain microbes can escape immune reactions and gaining insights into what constitutes a successful immune response."

The contract is expected to create at least 10 positions at LIAI and more at its three local subcontractors, the University of California, San Diego Supercomputer Center, Science Applications International Corporation and the Scripps Research Institute. Scientists from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark will also participate.

Mitchell Kronenberg, Ph.D., LIAI's president, said the project was timely for the institute, as it had already been planning to expand its laboratory research on emerging infectious disease and biodefense. "I am very pleased that the NIH has chosen the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology to be the leader of the consortium holding this contract", he stated. "Our institute is one of the largest in the world devoted to immunology research, and with our subcontractors I am confident that we can create the necessary bioinformatics infrastructure to support this database."

This project will be funded with federal funds from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, under Contract No. HHSN266200400006C.

Founded in 1988, La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology is a non-profit medical research center dedicated to increasing knowledge and improving human health through studies of the immune system. Researchers at the institute carry out studies on the immune response, as well as research to improve vaccine development, and studies designed to understand and develop cures for auto-immune diseases and allergy.


Leslie Versweyveld

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