National Institutes of Health Awards Baylor Research Institute $14.6 Million Grant to Create Center for Translational Research on Human Immunology And Biodefense

Sep 17, 2003, 01:00 ET from Baylor Research Institute

    DALLAS, Sept. 17 /PRNewswire/ -? Baylor Research Institute (BRI) announced
 today that it has received a $14.6 million grant from the National Institute
 of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID), one of the National Institutes of
 Health, to create the Baylor/NIAID Center for Translational Research on Human
 Immunology and Biodefense.
     Investigators will study the human immune system's response to emerging
 pathogens, such as West Nile Virus, SARS and other virulent agents, and seek
 to develop vaccines against them.  The Center will focus primarily on the
 study of dendritic cells, which activate and control the immune system and
 play a major role in vaccination.
     "While vaccines have been developed to combat many infectious diseases,
 natural evolution has created new biothreats for which new and different
 vaccines are needed.  We want to transition this research quickly and safely
 from the laboratory into clinical practice," said Jacques Banchereau, Ph.D.,
 director of BRI's Baylor Institute for Immunology Research and the new
 Baylor/NIAID Center for Translational Research on Human Immunology and
 Biodefense.  "By determining how pathogens affect human dendritic cells, we
 gain the knowledge necessary for the development of improved vaccines."
     New technology is needed for human immune system research.  The
 Baylor/NIAID Center for Translational Research on Human Immunology and
 Biodefense will develop new ways to obtain information from single immune
 cells so that small tissue and blood samples may be used to monitor the immune
 response.  Investigators will develop new technologies to determine how the
 body reacts to vaccine or infection.  Understanding the immune mechanisms
 causing strong versus weak immune responses will help investigators develop
 more effective vaccines.
     "This award will permit investigators at the Baylor Institute for
 Immunology Research to further develop their studies aimed at harnessing
 dendritic cells to induce protective immunity against emerging pathogens,
 whether they are released deliberately or arise naturally in the environment,"
 said Michael Ramsay, M.D., president, Baylor Research Institute.
     "One objective of the Center is to educate scientists worldwide in human
 immunology.  Each year, BRI will host an annual Human Immunology/Biodefense
 Symposium and Workshop, train up to five scientists per year in techniques
 unique to the Center and launch a Human Immunology of Biodefense Web site
 where critical information will be shared with other centers involved in
 similar research," said Joel Allison, president and chief executive officer,
 Baylor Health Care System.
     BRI is one of five organizations across the country, including Dana-Farber
 Cancer Institute in Boston, Mass.; Emory University School of Medicine in
 Atlanta, Ga.; Stanford University School of Medicine in Stanford, Calif.; and
 University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worchester, Md., that will
 receive funding for this new research program over the next four and a half
 years.  Dr. Banchereau will lead a team of investigators primarily from BRI,
 as well as NIAID, Yale University, Rockefeller University, University of New
 Mexico and UT Southwestern Medical Center.
     Through its Baylor Institute for Immunology Research, BRI focuses on
 developing new therapies, such as cell therapy, to treat cancer and autoimmune
 diseases and novel vaccines against infectious diseases.  Investigators soon
 will begin research on manipulating the immune system to improve the
 acceptance of transplanted organs.
     Dr. Banchereau and his team achieved their most recent success through
 aggressive development and enrollment of patients in Food and Drug
 Administration-approved clinical trials for metastatic melanoma, a deadly skin
 cancer.  When injected into patients, the antigen-loaded dendritic cells are
 expected to ramp up patients' immune responses against their own tumors,
 thereby killing the cancer.
     "There have been glimmers of success," Dr. Banchereau said.  "In September
 2001, my co-workers and I reported that 16 of 18 patients with advanced
 melanoma who received injections of dendritic cells loaded with melanoma
 antigens showed signs in laboratory tests of an enhanced immune response to
 their cancer.  Tumor growth also was slowed in the nine patients who mounted
 responses against more than two of the antigens."
     BRI's mission is to improve the care and well-being of the community --
 nationally and internationally -- through innovative clinically relevant
 research that is consistent with the mission, vision and values of Baylor
 Health Care System.  Currently, investigators are conducting more than
 500 research trials in 20 medical specialties.
     For more information about Baylor Research Institute, visit .

SOURCE Baylor Research Institute