The institute, with offices in Maryland and California, will use the
5-year grant from NIH to establish the Genome Center for Infectious
Diseases to study the genetic secrets of a wide range of bacteria,
viruses and parasites, officials said on Thursday.
The effort will include genetic sequencing of a number of pathogens
and research on genetic mechanisms behind the emergence of
antibiotic resistance, they said.
"It's a pretty big program," said Karen Nelson, president of the
non-profit institute, in a telephone interview.
Infectious diseases are among the leading causes of death worldwide.
Venter, the former NIH researcher who founded the institute, said in
a statement that the new work will be aimed at "enabling a more
in-depth understanding of pathogen biology and potentially aiding in
better treatments and preventative measures against infectious
The parasite research will focus on malaria, the mosquito-borne
disease that every year kills more than 620,000 people - mostly
African children, and also toxoplasmosis, which U.S. health
officials call a leading cause of death attributed to foodborne
illness in the United States, officials said.
"Malaria is a particularly high focus for the (NIH's) National
Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The focus there is
really on exploring approaches to come up with malaria vaccines,
which are looking more and more like they're going to potentially be
a reality for managing malaria," Venter Institute researcher William
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Viruses to be studied include: influenza from human, avian and swine
sources, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), rotavirus, West Nile
virus and Eastern equine encephalitis virus.
In the bacterial research, the program aims to perform genetic
sequencing on more than 1,700 strains of three disease-causing
types: klebsiella, acinetobacter and enterobacter.
(Reporting by Will Dunham; editing by Gunna Dickson)
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