UTSA receives $4.6 million to create Center of Excellence in Infection Genomics

STCEID researchers

STCEID researchers are (back row from left) Jose Lopez-Ribot, James Chambers, Karl Klose, Brian Wickes (UTHSCSA) and Neal Guentzel, and (front row) Guangming Zhong (UTHSCSA), Janakiram Seshu, Bernard Arulanandam, Floyd Wormley and Jieh-Juen Yu.
Not photographed are Stephen Saville and John Hart (UTHSCSA)/
(Photo by Mark McClendon)

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(June 15, 2011)--The South Texas Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases (STCEID) at The University of Texas at San Antonio will receive $4.6 million over the next five years from the U.S. Department of Defense Army Research Office to establish a Center of Excellence in Infection Genomics (CEIG). The grant will support microbiology research, teaching and outreach activities aligned with Army priorities. Infection genomics is the scientific discipline in which biologists characterize functional properties of the entire genome of infectious organisms.

"This new center is a winning proposition for both UTSA and the military," said Bernard Arulanandam, UTSA's Jane and Roland Blumberg Professor in Biology and associate dean of research for scientific innovation in the UTSA College of Sciences. "UTSA researchers will study infectious organisms that threaten the Army here and abroad and develop technology to translate that research into practical solutions for the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of diseases. All the while, we will train students to become great microbiologists for the Department of Defense."

UTSA's CEIG will focus on four core areas of expertise: the genomics of intestinal and respiratory pathogens; the biochemistry and molecular biology of vector-borne pathogens; the immunopathogenesis of fungal infections and anti-fungal drug development; and vaccine development.

Long-term center goals include:

  • Enhancing UTSA's core research capacity in molecular genetics and genomics by building on the university's existing strengths and infrastructure
  • Increasing the number of underrepresented minority graduates at all levels in molecular microbiology and immunology
  • Increasing the pool of students from area high schools who are interested in pursuing microbiology careers through outreach and teacher training

"Since its inception, the STCEID has contributed to moving UTSA to Tier One research status," said Edwin Barea-Rodriguez, chair of the UTSA Department of Biology. "The high school training component included in this new Department of Defense grant provides broader impact by training future scientists in San Antonio and the United States."

In addition to working closely with the Army Research Office, the center's researchers will collaborate with experts at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and the San Antonio Military Medical Center, a premier Army hospital and level I trauma center for wounded members of the military.

"The research and educational programs offered though our South Texas Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases are second to none and continue to grow year after year," said Robert Gracy, UTSA vice president for research. "This new Center in Infection Genomics adds to that momentum, leveraging the researchers' collective expertise and offering students of all levels the best possible training in microbial genetics, medical mycology, pathogenesis and immunology through Army-related projects."