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Microbial Genomics and Pathogenesis Participating Faculty
The Center has incorporated as one of its primary foci a research area in which VCU is traditionally very strong; i.e. a vigorous and substantial focus in the area of microbial molecular biology and infectious disease. Over two dozen faculty in over a dozen departments at VCU study molecular basis of pathogenesis of bacterial, fungal and viral agents of infectious disease. Moreover, this research effort is recognized by over $10 million in annual external funding. This is also an area of biomedical research that is well funded by NIH, the USDA, the Wellcome Trust, the Gates Foundation, Howard Hughes, the Pew Trust, and other funding agencies. The US Government will reemphasize its focus on infectious disease in the wake of the September 11, 2001 atrocities and the subsequent biological terrorism.
Infectious pathogens all undergo complex developmental programs in their host-parasite interactions, and these host-parasite interactions exhibit extremely complex behaviors that respond to genotype of the host and microbe, the condition of the host, and the environment. Other factors such as presence of appropriate vectors (e.g., mosquitoes, ticks, birds) or incidental hosts serve to add further complexity to the study of these diseases. No other research center has adopted systems strategies; however, the Center strongly promotes this area of investigation — a perfect niche for Center. Thus, this area of investigation fits perfectly the mission of the Center and is one that will continue to be strongly promoted.
Specifically, our research focus is centered on studies of infectious agents using systems biological approaches and the principles of biocomplexity. Understanding of the complex programs that lead to the development of a pathogen, and the even more intricate relationship between the host and the pathogen are the thrust of this effort. Faculty using the tools of genomics, bioinformatics, computational and mathematical biology, and proteomics will continue to be recruited to enhance existing programs in various departments in the School of Medicine (Medicine, Infectious Disease, Microbiology and Immunology, Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, Pharmacology, etc.), the School of Dentistry (Phillips Institute), the School of Pharmacy (Medicinal Chemistry), and the School of Humanities and Sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics and Applied Mathematics). Programs of existing faculty are continually supported as they make the transition to use of systems strategies for research. Infrastructure is being enhanced to support all of these efforts.
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