A new one-year federal grant of nearly $1 million will help the Southeastern Center for Emerging Biologic Threats (SECEBT) fulfill its mission of combating emerging infectious diseases and potential biologic threats through strong regional partnerships in medicine, public health and emergency preparedness.
SECEBT, which is in its second year of broad-based regional collaborations, already has built partnerships among twelve universities and five state health departments throughout the Southeast, as well as three federal agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), The Carter Center, and private partners.
The SECEBT partnership combines academic medical research, diverse clinical and laboratory expertise, and experience in disease eradication and prevention. Scientific resources of the partnership include biosafety level 3 and 4 laboratories, vaccine centers, trauma facilities, and leading animal research facilities. The Center offers the broad scientific expertise of internationally recognized leaders in disease eradication and prevention and public health policy development and a communication network for risk conveyance and widespread dissemination of information about biologic threats.
Ongoing research includes immunology related to emerging biologic agents and infectious pathogens, antibiotic resistance; outcomes research; early warning technology; testing of new drug candidates and therapies; hospital and emergency department readiness; microbial genomes; animal surveillance; and mechanisms of microbial pathogens.
SECEBT has hosted two annual regional conferences, last year on West Nile Virus and this January on Pandemic Influenza. Both topics addressed immediate and critical public health concerns that required rapid response, comprehensive information and collaborative research. In addition to its own conferences, the partnership hosted a conference on meningococcal and pneumococcal disease along with the CDC, and educational meetings held by the British House of Lords and House of Commons.
SECEBT also established a small grants program that resulted in collaborative research projects among seven universities, five state agencies in three states, and one federal agency. Currently funded projects include research on West Nile virus, smallpox, anthrax, pneumocystis, and Mycobacterium shotsii, a newly identified threat to fish. This year's federal funding will enable an additional round of research grant awards.
David S. Stephens, MD, director of the division of infectious diseases in Emory University School of Medicine, is executive director of the SECEBT. Jeffrey P. Koplan, MD, MPH, vice president for academic health affairs at Emory University and former director of the CDC, is senior adviser. Walter A. Orenstein, MD, director of the National Immunization Program at the CDC, will join the Emory School of Medicine faculty in March and will serve as Associate Director of the SECEBT.
"The Southeastern Center has been an invaluable addition to our regional ability to address the immediate threats of emerging diseases and the very real need to prepare for ongoing and future outbreaks," Dr. Stephens said. "The Center's partnerships allow for targeted, collaborative research and a nimble response to critical threats. This new Federal award will allow us to build on our partnerships and move forward with research breakthroughs and enhanced communication systems, as well as to leverage our collaborations to attract additional partners and additional research funding."