This is the revised competing continuation application for the Biodefense Training Program at the University of Virginia. The Program received an Impact/Priority Score of 20 at the 2011 meeting of the MID study section. Principal strengths noted in the critique included the exceptionally well-funded trainers, the value added to trainees through meetings, symposia, and access to resources of the Middle Atlantic Regional Center for Excellence for Biodefense, the exceptional institutional support, and the thorough training plan. Weaknesses were considered negligible. The Program objective is to provide a rich interdisciplinary experience in Biodefense Category A-C Agent research, with the goal to prepare trainees for careers in independent investigation. The cornerstone is side- by-side education of predoctoral, Ph.D. and M.D. postdoctoral fellows. The Program combines the expertise of 16 Mentors from seven different departments, all within a five minute walking distance. All but one (a new recruit on start-up) of the Mentors are extramurally supported by the NIH through at least 2013, with $21.9 million total annual direct costs (29% increase since 2008). The average Mentor has trained >ten pre- and/or postdoctoral students, but select Junior Mentors are included but required to have a senior Program faculty as co-mentor. Training is enriched by state-of-the art BSL-3 and BSL-2 laboratory space constructed by the University for the Program, a twice-monthly "Research in Biodefense and Infectious Diseases" meeting that pairs a predoctoral and postdoctoral fellow to discuss research-in-progress, a graduate course focused on Biodefense, a new graduate course schedule that promotes focused time in research, an Annual Research Day, Career Development Forums, an innovative basic-clinical Journal Club, and coordination of training with the Middle Atlantic Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense. Evaluations of the Program include an annual faculty retreat, external advisory committee and annual trainee questionnaire. Funds are requested to train three predoctoral fellows and two postdoctoral fellows (a decrease in one postdoctoral position based on the recommendation of the MID study section). Category A Agents are a focus with approximately half of the trainees studying Ebola, anthrax or tularemia. First authored peer-reviewed original research publications at graduation average two for predocs and 1.4 for postdocs, with high impact papers in Nature, Science, Cell, and PNAS. 84% of predocs and 92% of postdocs that have graduated from the Program remain active in research, most in biodefense. 29% of trainees supported in the last funding period are underrepresented minorities, and there have been 79% and 100% graduation rates respectively for pre- and postdoctoral trainees.
Category A through C Agents of Biodefense remain significant threats to health. The Biodefense Training Program prepares predoctoral and postdoctoral trainees for research in biodefense, providing a rich interdisciplinary environment that promotes innovative science.
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