Signature Research Programs

Signature Program in Infectious Diseases and Immunity

The Signature Program in Infectious Disease and Immunity comprises six major emphases:

  • basic immune mechanisms
  • pulmonary immunity and infectious disease
  • basic microbial pathogenesis and host-pathogen interaction
  • bio-defense
  • emerging infectious disease with an emphasis on tuberculosis and viruses that are associated with New Mexico’s population (e,g.- Hantavirus, West Nile)
  • infectious etiologies of cancer (HPV, Hepatitis B and C, and HTLV)

Current NIH-funded, multi-departmental and interdisciplinary programs include:

  • The Asthma Specialized Center of Research
  • The Hantavirus Ecology and Disease in Chile and Panama program
  • The Major Histocompatibility Program in Primates
  • The Pulmonary Response to Category A Bio-threats program
  • The Tularemia Vaccine Development Team
  • The Response to Vaccines and Infectious Diseases program
  • NIAID-funded T32 training grant for pre- and post-doctoral training

This program is emblematic of the collaborative links between UNM and the computational research activities of Sandia National Laboratories and the unique strengths in inhalational toxicology and primate research at the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute.

The goal in this Research Program is to develop and enhance collaborative programs among researchers, physicians and businesses in New Mexico to address the threat of infectious and immunologically-mediated inflammatory diseases in New Mexican populations and the world by characterizing epidemiologic issues, studying basic host-pathogen mechanisms, developing new vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics, and testing the preventive, therapeutic and diagnostic efficacy of these discoveries in clinical trials.

Programmatic Structure

There are six major programmatic emphases:

  • Basic immune mechanisms
  • Pulmonary immunity and infectious disease
  • Basic microbial pathogenesis and host-pathogen interaction
  • Biodefense
  • Emerging infectious disease with an emphasis on tuberculosis and viruses that are associated with New Mexico’s population (hantavirus, West Nile)
  • Infectious etiology of cancer (HPV, Hepatitis B and C and HTLV - overlaps Cancer Signature Program)

Program Focus and Strengths

Current Large Project Strengths involving multi departmental/ multidisciplinary and multi-institutional programs are as follows:

  • Asthma Specialized Center of Research. NIH funded P50 consisting of 3 projects and 3 cores to study the basic mechanisms of the cause of asthma and the mechanisms by which anti IgE therapy reduces clinical disease in asthma volunteers. LRRI is partner.
  • ICIDR: Hantavirus Ecology and Disease in Chile and Panama. NIH-funded program that supports a collaboration between UNMHSC and Panama and Chile to improve surveillance, diagnostics and therapeutics for hantavirus infections in Chile and Panama.
  • Major Histocompatibility Program in Primates. NIH-funded contract to study the major histocompatibility region of primates and develop tools that can be applied to these in order to enhance our ability to extrapolate immunologic studies in primates to humans.
  • Pulmonary response to Category A Biothreats. NIH-funded Program Project (PO1) to examine the basic pulmonary inflammatory and immune response to biothreats delivered via the lung, including anthrax, plague and poxviruses in order to identify targets for vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics . Lovelace, Arizona State University, and Duke University are partners.
  • Tularemia vaccine Development Team. NIH-funded contract consisting of a focused preclinical effort to develop the appropriate animal models and guidelines for developing a vaccine against tularemia and to identify potential vaccine candidates for a product. Another outcome for the studies will be to design an applicable model for developing vaccines against other low prevalence, high morbidity emerging infections such as against hantavirus, SARS and avian flu. LLRI, Arizona State University, Cerus Inc, and UT San Antonio are partners.
  • Response to Vaccines and Infectious Diseases. NIH-funded contract that will examine the genetic basis for why different individuals within the same population have a greater susceptibility or resistance to specific infections and vaccines. DeCode Genetics and the National Center for Genome Resources are partners.

5 year goals

Education

  • 1 new or expanded training grant with associated two new postdoctoral positions an two new graduate student positions; and /or obtain a COBRE for new faculty recruits.
  • Create a new basic microbiology course for Biomedical Sciences.

Clinical research and activity

  • Recruit at least two new faculty members with a research emphasis on vaccine prevention/ immunologically–mediated diseases / international health.
  • Two junior clinical researchers receive RO1s or equivalent to study some aspect of infectious diseases and/or immunity.
  • Two new clinical trials to study infections /vaccines/immune mediated disease in human populations

Research

  • 2 new program projects or equivalent
  • 1 new grant in collaboration with National labs
  • Recruitment of two basic scientist: a bacterial geneticist and an arbovirologist
  • Recruit an infectious disease epidemiologist