UMSOM's Institute for Genome Sciences receives $17.5 million grant for infectious disease research

The Institute for Genome Sciences (IGS) at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) was awarded $17.5 million from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to fund the IGS Genome Center for Infectious Diseases (GCID) for another five years.

The Principal Investigator and Administrative Core Director for the grant, which is titled "A Genomics Based Investigation of the Determinants of Polymicrobial Infectious Disease Outcomes," is David Rasko, PhD, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology and Scientist at IGS. Team investigators will include: Claire M. Fraser, PhD, the Dean's Endowed Professor of Medicine, Microbiology and Immunology, and Director of IGS, and Owen R. White, PhD, Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health, Director of Bioinformatics and Associate Director of IGS.,

The GCID uses large-scale genomics and bioinformatics approaches to investigate pathogen biology, virulence, immune evasion, microbe-microbe interactions as well as host-microbiome interactions. Scientific research projects focus on host/microbe interrelationships of diverse bacteria, fungi, and parasites. The interdisciplinary team will participate in the GCID research, including internationally recognized faculty from the Institute for Genome Sciences, the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and the UMSOM Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health (CVD) and their long-standing collaborators.

"The GCID team has been in the forefront of applying genomic techniques to advance scientific understanding of infectious disease agents for the past 15 years, and this NIAID grant renewal will allow us to further deploy genomics approaches in the study of host-pathogen-microbiome interactions," said Dr. Fraser.

The NIAID grant will support research programs that focus on three areas. One research area involves studying the interactions of multiple bacteria with each other as well as the host and associated microbiome, which is led by Dr. Rasko, Dr. Fraser, and Herve S.G. Tettelin, PhD, Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology and Scientist at IGS.. The second area includes research into the genomic and transcriptomic analysis of fungal pathogens interacting with the host, which will be led by Vincent M. Bruno, PhD, Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology and Scientist at IGS. The third area of research includes an integrated genomics research project in parasitic tropical diseases that will be led by Julie C. Dunning Hotopp, PhD, Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology and Scientist at IGS, David Serre, PhD, Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology and Scientist at IGS; and Joana C. Silva, PhD, Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology and Scientist at IGS

"This grant allows us to integrate the study of multiple pathogens in model systems and with human samples in a way that is more representative of natural infection processes, which will provide greater understanding and more in-depth insights into these interactions," said Dr. Rasko.

The center also supports a Technology Core, a Data Management Core and an Administrative Core. The projects include whole genome and targeted genome sequencing, transcriptome profiling by RNA-seq, rRNA community profiling, and metagenomics and metatranscriptomic sequencing with a focus on the interactions of microbes with each other, the host and the resident microbiome. The sequencing will be performed using multiple platforms, including the Illumina MiSeq and HiSeq, Oxford Nanopore Technology and the Pacific Biosciences systems.

"Integrating genomics with diagnostic and clinical medicine has advanced our biological understanding of diseases and health," says E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, Vice President for Medical Affairs at the University of Maryland, and John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and Dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "This NIAID grant will foster new collaborations across disciplines within the clinical and research centers in the School of Medicine, as well as with international infectious disease communities."

In addition to the research projects, IGS will establish workshops and continue educational initiatives to expand the understanding of how to apply genomics to high priority research questions that impact global health.

IGS has previously received grants as a Genome Center for Infectious Diseases (GCID) an NIAID-funded five-year grant (2014-2019); a Genome Sequencing Center for Infectious Diseases (GSCID); an NIAID-funded five-year contract (2009-2014), and the lead investigators have also had Principal Investigator roles with the NIAID-funded Microbial Sequencing Center (MSC), a five-year contract (2004-2009). This U19 grant with number U19 AI110820 will run for five years until 2024, representing twenty years of cutting edge research in genomic sciences.

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