The Western Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases Research (WRCE) is located in DHHS Region VI, including Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Dr. David H. Walker is the PI and director for the WRCE. The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) is the lead institution. Academic institutions within the WRCE possess remarkable depth and breadth of scientific expertise related to Category A, B, and C priority pathogens and emerging and re-emerging infectious disease agents. From the very beginning, the WRCE leadership has strived to access this expertise and to make the WRCE a genuine cross-institutional Center involving all member states, not just in name or by concentrating projects at a few universities. The fact that over 100 project leaders at 34 different institutions have received funding from the WRCE is a testament to the plural nature of the WRCE program. The sense of collaboration and spirit of cooperation among investigators from traditionally competing institutions was previously unimaginable prior to the establishment of the WRCE in 2003 under Dr. Walker's guidance and strong leadership. The activities of the WRCE are firmly centered on supporting NIAID's Biodefense Research Agenda, and this application reaffirms our commitment to this strategy. The WRCE program is a success, as evaluated by a number of parameters that consider the whole Center as contributing more than the sum of its individual member institutions and investigators. In the assessment of the national RCE Program, several individual Center measurements were provided. They revealed that the WRCE ranked first in the number of organisms studied, total number of projects, number of Pis, additional non- RCE funding stemming from WRCE research, and number of patent applications as compared to the other individual Centers [1]. Our publication rate is also the one of the highest of the Centers. Since the WRCE was originally funded in September 2003, excellent progress has been made toward producing promising leads for biodefense countermeasures. WRCE translational research resulted in a wealth of significant basic biologic research as well, and the two are not mutually exclusive. Publications from WRCE researchers have resulted in new knowledge about the role of capsule in dissemination of inhalational anthrax, anthrax spore germination, rickettsial genes involved in phagosomal escape, the role of nonstructural genes in the replication of Rift Valley fever virus, the genetics of Nipah virus, and Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus host cell entry mechanisms, to name but a few. Additionally, the well characterized animal models developed by the WRCE Small Animal Core, Nonhuman Primate Core, and select project leaders all contributed knowledge about the natural history and pathogenesis of infections, and these investigations are an essential component for supporting applied research. The original WRCE application in 2003 had a very broad thematic structure in the strategic plan. The focus of the WRCE leadership was to fund the very best science and to take full advantage of the diversity of infectious disease and microbiologic expertise in our region. To date, the WRCE has funded 72 research projects and ten cores, including two trans-RCE cores that resided in our region. This work involved 30 different agents, including nine bacteria, 18 viruses, one protozoan, and two toxins. Given the yield in WRCE patents and publications, the institutions and investigators receiving funding, and projects advancing toward tangible products, this strategy served us very well during the first grant cycle. As the WRCE program matured, four themes emerged that logically encompassed the most productive projects that were likely to lead to biodefense countermeasures. The four themes are as follows: 1. Development of Therapeutic Agents for RNA Viruses 2. Platforms for Multiplexed Diagnostics for Category A-C Agents and Emerging Agents 3. Vaccine Development for Arboviral and Emerging Viral Diseases 4. Vaccine Development for Diseases Caused by Intracellular Bacteria These themes will no doubt serve to help us converge and synergize as we embark on the next leg of our research journey within the WRCE

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
Specialized Center--Cooperative Agreements (U54)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZAI1-DDS-M)
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University of Texas Medical Br Galveston
United States
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Pandey, Aseem; Lin, Furong; Cabello, Ana L et al. (2018) Activation of Host IRE1?-Dependent Signaling Axis Contributes the Intracellular Parasitism of Brucella melitensis. Front Cell Infect Microbiol 8:103
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Pandey, Aseem; Cabello, Ana; Akoolo, Lavoisier et al. (2016) The Case for Live Attenuated Vaccines against the Neglected Zoonotic Diseases Brucellosis and Bovine Tuberculosis. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 10:e0004572

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