Center for Emerging Biologic Threats (SECEBT) Links Region's Research
Universities and Public Health Programs
A partnership to combat biologic agents with increasing potential
ATLANTA -- Leading
research institutions and public health programs throughout the Southeast
are joining forces in a new Southeastern Center for Emerging Biologic
The initiating partners are
Emory University's Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center and collaborators
within the Georgia Institute of Technology, the Medical College of Georgia,
Morehouse School of Medicine, the University of Florida, the University
of Georgia, and the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Other
significant partners are expected to come on board over the next few
weeks and months.
The Center also will work
in close collaboration with state and federal agencies including the
state health departments of Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi
and South Carolina; the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;
and Veterans Affairs Medical Centers affiliated with the Center's medical
school partners. Other collaborators include the Georgia Research Alliance,
The Carter Center and Region IV, US Public Health Service, Department
of Health and Human Services.
The Southeastern Center for
Emerging Biologic Threats is designed as a partnership to combat biologic
agents with increasing potential for harm. The war against dangerous
biologic agents is fought with knowledge, research and communication.
The Center addresses biologic threat agents by consolidating resources
in basic research; vaccine development; pathogen surveillance; biomedical
engineering; pharmacology; veterinary medicine; food safety; clinical
recognition and treatment; and communication and training of scientists
and health professionals. The SECEBT will develop new means of detecting,
combating and preventing biologic threats, whether purposefully caused,
as from terrorism, or from naturally occurring causes. The Center will
use medical and community education to advance applications at the individual
and community level.
Emory has committed significant
resources to launch the multi-institution consortium, says Michael M.
E. Johns, MD, executive vice president for health affairs. This is on
top of a major investment by Emory in its own programs related to biologic
threat. "At Emory we have a critical mass of resources in infectious
diseases, vaccine development, emergency response, public health and
other areas, as well as many decades of experience with emerging biologic
threats such as anthrax and smallpox," says Dr. Johns. "But our longstanding
partnerships with the neighboring U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention and many other organizations have shown us the exponential
power of collaboration."
A longstanding partner in
that collaboration, Dr. Jeffrey Koplan, vice president for academic
health affairs at Emory University and former director of the U.S. Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention, is senior advisor to the new Center.
The scope of activities planned
for SECEBT reflects the broad range of resources in the partnership,
including: access to biosafety level 4 (BSL4) laboratories where lethal
airborne infectious agents can be studied; well-established vaccine
centers able to develop and test vaccines; animal facilities, including
a BSL3ag containment complex, primate center and veterinary medical
college, and agricultural and toxic threat research; pharmacology research;
biomedical engineering research; population-based surveillance programs;
extensive trauma, emergency and other response systems; and strong state-wide
communication systems to enable health professional training and the
rapid dissemination of information about emerging biologic threats and
the means of recognizing and combating them. The center's partner institutions
include the most experienced scientific leaders world-wide in eradication
and prevention of infectious disease threats including smallpox and
anthrax, as well as internationally recognized leaders in tuberculosis,
HIV/AIDS, pneumonia, meningitis, influenza, and other diseases.
Projects underway at one
or more of the initiating member institutions include:
- Basic research programs
in antibiotic resistance; newly emerging agents of naturally occurring
biologic threats including influenza and tuberculosis; and highly
toxic pathogens including Ebola virus, smallpox, and anthrax.
- Research into human and
animal immunologic response to infections and other biologic agents.
- Early detection and warning
of biologic threats.
- Clinical recognition,
including advances in diagnosis of disease, education of physicians
and veterinarians in disease awareness, and clinical testing of new
drug candidates and treatment regimens for emerging infections.
- Communication approaches,
including best methods to convey risk, structures to disseminate information
to public health agencies, government officials, hospitals, medical
and veterinary personnel, and the general public.
- Education of students,
graduates and health professionals in human and veterinary medicine,
nursing, and public health on effective response to biologic threat.
- Hospital (including trauma
and emergency department) and community response to threats, including
detailed plans to address access to facilities, emergency transportation,
availability of medical supplies, chain of command, emergency power,
rapid communication with staff and public health agencies, disease
surveillance and other issues.
- Expertise in outcomes
research, risk assessment and public health policy.
- Vaccine development against
existing and potential emerging biologic threats, testing for vaccine
safety, and novel methods of vaccine and drug delivery.
- Annotation of a complete
viral genome database.
- Modeling of biologic threats.
- Extensive animal surveillance
program as sentinel system for biologic threats.
- International collaborations
with scientists in South Africa, the Republic of Georgia, China and
"With 30 new infectious disease
agents in the U.S. in just the past 30 years, along with the added threat
of biologic terrorism, emerging infectious diseases will continue to
be a major health issue for the United States," Dr. Koplan says. "Through
the scientific and programmatic strengths of its diverse partners, the
SECEBT will compound our ability to address these challenges rapidly
and efficiently in seeking to prevent risk to the citizens of our region."