Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Can a Penn State center predict and prevent the next pandemic?

One of the hottest new research centers in the US is the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics at Penn State. This month's The Scientist contains an article on the new center, highlighting the fact that the center has been particularly successful at attracting new faculty.

"Daniel Falush, an evolutionary geneticist at Oxford University, describes one effect CIDD has had in the United Kingdom: 'There was a great sucking sound because these famous British scientists were disappearing to Penn State.'"

CIDD's mission is to investigate infectious diseases both from theoretical and applied standpoints.

"Investigation of key biological questions Our research addresses issues of fundamental importance in biology. For instance:

  • Many disease agents have a sufficiently short generation time that ecological and evolutionary dynamics operate on similar timescales. Consequently, host-parasite relationships provide a tractable system for investigating key questions in population and evolutionary biology.
  • Though their interactions with host immunity are complex, some disease agents have small enough genomes that we can begin to dissect the molecular basis of important large-scale phenomena such as species barriers to transmission and herd immunity.

By collaborating across different disciplines, CIDD researchers cast important biological problems and processes in useful new lights. Application to disease management and control Infectious diseases have an immense impact on human health, agriculture and conservation. CIDD research has considerable relevance to management and control of pressing disease issues such as disease emergence, bio- and agro-terrorism and epidemic control strategies."

I've got a personal connection to CIDD. One of my former labmates, Siobain Duffy, is now a postdoctoral researcher in Eddie Holmes' Lab. Duffy is an amazing scientist and I can't wait to see what she discovers in her new position.

The photo, courtesy of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, shows HIV daughter viruses being shed from a T-cell.

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