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Leading research to understand, treat, and prevent infectious, immunologic, and allergic diseases
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2010 Research Program Highlights

In fiscal year (FY) 2010, NIAID released 30 funding opportunity announcements to spur scientific interest in selected areas that align with the Institute’s research programs and priorities. Examples of these initiatives and other large programmatic activities are highlighted below.

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Restructuring the NIAID Clinical Trials Networks

NIAID is planning for the future of its clinical trials networks. This initiative reorganizes and expands the Institute’s current HIV/AIDS clinical trials networks. Building from the current model, NIAID will maintain a robust research program in HIV/AIDS and create an infrastructure capable of performing research on non-HIV infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis and hepatitis, and provide a framework for trials that addresses the ongoing challenge of microbial resistance to antimicrobial therapies.

To facilitate this process, the Institute convened a public town hall meeting at the end of FY 2010 to share key aspects of the new networks with a focus on potential changes in research priorities and network structure, opportunities for collaborations, and general information on the application process, as well as to gather broad input from the HIV/AIDS and infectious diseases research communities. A second town hall meeting focusing primarily on the infectious diseases research community occurred in FY 2011. The spirited discussions and ideas generated at these meetings will help NIAID shape its future clinical trials networks.

Learn more about clinical trials networks.

Reducing the Impact of HIV

Eliminate Viral Reservoirs

photo of Audrey Kinter and Joshua working in a lab
Audrey Kinter and Joshua Vasquez of the NIAID Lab of Immunoregulation standing over a microscope, studying the human immune response to HIV.
Credit: NIAID

Currently available treatments for HIV are unable to rid an infected person of the virus completely. In most people, the virus rebounds within days or weeks if effective treatment is interrupted. This is due in part to the virus's ability to hide or persist in latent reservoirs for long periods.

To address viral persistence, NIAID solicited research proposals in FY 2010 to 1) identify and study the basic biology of HIV reservoirs to better understand why current treatments cannot eradicate HIV and 2) facilitate the design, development, and evaluation of novel strategies to eliminate these reservoirs from HIV-infected individuals who require daily antiretroviral therapy. The Martin Delaney Collaboratory: Towards an HIV Cure, named in honor of the late AIDS activist, will expand researchers' basic knowledge of HIV latency and persistence so that strategies for eradicating the virus can be evaluated.

Extend Research on Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is an investigational prevention strategy that involves giving antiretroviral medicines to people at high risk for HIV to prevent them from infection. Taking antiretroviral medicines before exposure to HIV could potentially inhibit HIV replication immediately after exposure to the virus, thus thwarting the establishment of permanent infection. The strategy has been shown to be effective: Recent studies funded by NIAID and others demonstrated that PrEP reduces the risk of HIV transmission.

With these promising findings, NIAID recognizes the need to establish a pipeline for the development of new or existing antiretroviral drugs that could be used for PrEP. Through the Next Generation of PrEP initiative, NIAID supports the development of a research framework to discover, develop, and test new or existing agents that could be used as potential new PrEP treatments.

Respond to the HIV/AIDS Epidemic in Washington, DC

Washington, DC, has one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in the United States. Three percent of adults and adolescents living in the District of Columbia are infected with the virus. To answer critical HIV research questions that could help provide solutions to this local problem, officials from NIAID in Bethesda, Maryland, and from the Washington, DC, city government developed the DC Partnership for HIV/AIDS Progress. The partnership with community and academic colleagues accelerated its portfolio in FY 2010 in epidemiology, prevention, and therapy. This collaborative research initiative is designed to decrease the rate of new HIV infections, improve the health of residents living with HIV, and strengthen the response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Washington, DC. If effective, this could serve as a model for other U.S. cities.

Learn more about reducing the impact of HIV:

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Improving Outcomes for Asthma and Allergic Diseases

Reduce Impact of Asthma and Allergic Diseases

photo of a man receiving a skin test
A patient receiving an allergy skin test from a clinician.

Rates of asthma and allergic diseases continue to rise worldwide, and these diseases are a major cause of illness and disability in the United States for people of all ages. Research has improved our understanding of these diseases, leading to advances in promising therapeutic approaches.

In FY 2010, NIAID partnered with the National Institutes of Health Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH) and invited investigators to submit new or renewal applications to participate in the Asthma and Allergic Diseases Cooperative Research Centers. These centers perform basic and clinical research on the immunologic basis, pathology, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of asthma and allergic diseases. The knowledge gained from this research will facilitate the development of novel strategies to prevent and treat these diseases and lessen their adverse impact on public health.

Improve Management of Food Allergy

In recent years, concerns have mounted over the rise in prevalence of food allergy in children and adults. Currently, the only strategies to combat the condition are to avoid the particular food and treat the symptoms as they occur. In response to these concerns, NIAID collaborated with more than 30 professional organizations, federal agencies, and patient advocacy groups to develop clinical guidelines for use in the United States. The guidelines will help healthcare professionals diagnose and manage non-life-threatening food allergies as well as more acute and potentially life-threatening food-allergy reactions.

Learn more about the Asthma and Allergic Diseases Cooperative Research Centers and the Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Food Allergy in the United States.

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Understanding How Genetic Factors Affect Transplants

Rejection of transplanted organs, tissues, and cells, known as graft rejection, remains a major problem for patients receiving transplants. Understanding how particular gene sequences and patterns of gene expression vary between populations may provide key insights into the prevention of graft rejection.

The Genomics of Transplantation Cooperative Research Program addresses this issue directly by performing large-scale, interdisciplinary genomic studies in clinical transplantation of organs, tissues, and cells. In FY 2010, this NIAID-funded program supported research focused on identifying the genetic basis of immune-mediated graft rejection, predicting responses to immunosuppressive therapeutics, and understanding the differences in transplant outcomes. These studies will provide a rational basis for developing more effective treatments, extend long-term graft survival, and improve the quality of life for transplant patients.

Learn more about the Genomics of Transplantation Cooperative Research Program.

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Improving Public Safety Through Partnerships for Biodefense

Develop Tools Against Priority Pathogens

photo of Alexander Rumyantsev in protective gear
Alexander Rumyantsev working in a lab to prepare a vaccine against the West Nile virus.

NIAID recognizes that many infectious microbes could threaten public safety if they were to emerge or re-emerge naturally with new properties or in new settings. They would also pose a threat if they were released intentionally in a biological attack. Known as priority pathogens, these agents are divided into three categories: A) high-priority pathogens that pose a risk to national security, for example, the microbes that cause anthrax, botulism, and plague; B) moderately easy-to-disseminate pathogens and toxins, for example, Salmonella, West Nile virus, and ricin toxin; and C) emerging pathogens that could be engineered for mass dissemination, for example, yellow fever and influenza.

In FY 2010, NIAID began supporting the Partnerships for Biodefense, a program that addresses these microbes and toxins. Future research projects will focus on the preclinical development and production of medical countermeasures including vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostic tests against one or more of the category A, B, or C priority pathogens. A key component of this initiative will be collaborative partnerships between researchers from academia and industry to accelerate progress in this area of research.

Learn more about NIAID Category A, B, and C Priority Pathogens and Partnerships for Biodefense.

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Reducing the Threat of Viral Diseases

Advance Development of Effective Vaccines

The mission of the NIAID Vaccine Research Center (VRC) is to conduct research that facilitates the development of effective vaccines for human disease. The VRC reported many successes in FY 2010, including: 1) the development of a novel vaccine strategy that may lead to a universal flu vaccine; 2) the development of virus-like particles that were safely used to immunize monkeys from Chikungunya virus, a mosquito-borne infection that affects millions of people in Africa, causing debilitating pain; and 3) the identification of broadly neutralizing antibodies that protect against many strains of HIV.

Researchers within the Division of Intramural Research (DIR) at NIAID also reported significant advances in vaccine development during FY 2010. These advances have led the intramural research program to prepare for clinical trials to evaluate vaccines against dengue, malaria, parainfluenza virus, respiratory syncytial virus, Ebola, and Marburg. In addition, the program licensed a rotavirus vaccine for manufacture in developing countries. Scientists at NIAID also demonstrated that their novel vaccine against herpes simplex virus was more effective than the leading vaccine candidate.

Better Understand and Treat Seasonal and Pandemic Flu

Mitigating the impact of seasonal and pandemic influenza remains a high priority for NIAID, as it continues to support research into prevention, treatment, and diagnosis. In FY 2010, intramural investigators from the NIAID Division of Clinical Research (DCR) and DIR engaged in a government-wide effort to understand the pathogenesis of mild to severe pandemic influenza. In addition, they facilitated the development of novel therapies and strategies for treating severe influenza. DCR investigators also initiated collaborations with Mexican health authorities to address the impact and epidemiology of 2009 H1N1 influenza A and influenza-like illness in that country.

Learn more about reducing the threat of viral diseases:

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Reducing the Threat of Antimicrobial Drug Resistance

Develop Strategies Against Antimicrobial Resistance

Infectious microbes have a remarkable ability to evade and resist the actions of antimicrobial drugs. Combined with the overuse of antibiotics, this has led to an increased rate drug resistant microbes.

Improved treatment strategies could help reduce the risk of antimicrobial resistance and preserve the effectiveness of existing drugs. That is the overarching goal of the NIAID-sponsored Targeted Clinical Trials To Reduce the Risk of Antimicrobial Resistance program. This research program will target infectious diseases that have the greatest likelihood to become resistant to treatment, including tuberculosis and pneumoccocal pneumonia. Researchers will develop strategies to test the safety and efficacy of various treatment approaches and regimens aimed at minimizing unnecessary drug exposure and reducing the occurrence of drug resistance.

Address Select Microbial Threats

Resistance to antibiotics has been a significant factor in the increasing numbers of severe intestinal disease caused by infection with Clostridium difficile bacteria. The rates of disease resulting from Neisseria gonorrhoeae, another bacterium that causes gonorrhea, have also been on the rise, due in part to the gradual development of resistance to available antibiotics. Similarly, strains of hepatitis B virus are developing resistance to current antiviral therapies.

The NIAID Partnerships for Development of New Therapeutic Classes for Select Viral and Bacterial Pathogens was initiated in FY 2010 to address the threat to public health that these microbes present. The partnerships aim to stimulate research focused on the preclinical development of novel classes of antibacterial and antiviral drug candidates to combat infections by these pathogens.

Learn more about reducing the threat of antimicrobial drug resistance:

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Last Updated November 17, 2011

Last Reviewed August 03, 2011