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Hopkins Joins National Program to Study Emerging Infectious Diseases

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Hopkins Joins National Program to Study Emerging Infectious Diseases

Researchers at Johns Hopkins have received one of 14 biodefense grants from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, to study how certain viral infectious diseases trigger a response from the body’s immune system.  Specifically, the program is designed to identify key regions of viruses or other infectious agents – known as epitopes – that are targeted or used by the cells of the body’s immune system to identify or attack infection.   

As part of the national effort, called the Large-Scale Antibody and T Cell Epitope Discovery Program, the Hopkins researchers will focus their study on several viruses that cause human diseases, including hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, dengue fever and yellow fever.  The total value of the Hopkins grant is approximately $7.3 million.

 “It is very exciting to be part of this scientific endeavor,” said lead Hopkins study investigator and molecular biologist Thomas August, M.D., a distinguished service professor of pharmacology, molecular sciences and oncology at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “Identifying epitopes is essential to our basic understanding of the workings of the immune system and how viruses trigger an immune response.  Ultimately, we hope to use this knowledge to develop vaccines and diagnostic tools against these potentially fatal and debilitating diseases.”

As part of the study effort, the Hopkins team will collaborate with additional researchers based in tropical regions, such as Singapore and Brazil.

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