TOWSON, Md., Oct. 3 /PRNewswire/ -- An international research network investigating life-threatening primary immune deficiency diseases will receive the largest federal award ever to study the diseases, according to an announcement today from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is an agency of the US Department of Health and Human Services. The Immune Deficiency Foundation (IDF) - a national non-profit health organization dedicated to improving the diagnosis and treatment of primary immune deficiency diseases - will support the US Immunodeficiency Network (USID Net), a consortium of leading researchers who will develop and oversee an ambitious and comprehensive research agenda and distribute funds to individual researchers totaling nearly $12.8 million over the next five years. USID Net will be jointly sponsored by NIAID and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). Primary immune deficiency disorders are caused by intrinsic or genetic defects in the immune system. The result is an immune system that is either missing entirely or does not function properly. The World Health Organization recognizes more than 100 of these disorders. As many as 50,000 people in the U.S. have a clinically significant primary immune deficiency disease. New Funding will Promote New Treatments The research will focus on new investigative methods that show promise for the treatment of primary immune deficiency diseases, including: -- Broad analysis of the molecular and genetic basis of primary immune deficiencies -- Evaluation of proteins that are of crucial importance for the function of the immune system -- Design of screening tests for early diagnosis of primary immune deficiencies -- Investigate new molecularly based treatments that may lead to the cure of primary immune deficiencies In addition to evaluating and funding research projects, the consortium will mentor physicians and scientists to foster long-term interest in the fields of primary immune deficiency and also establish a collection of cell lines and DNA, which will be made available to qualified investigators to investigate aspects of the primary immune deficiency diseases. Far-Reaching Benefits for Other Conditions In addition to its direct benefit for the primary immune deficiency diseases community, the contract announced today could have far-reaching advantages for others. Research initiated with primary immune deficiency patients often is the source for basic science breakthroughs and has given rise to innovative treatments in a wide range of disease areas. Well-known examples include: -- Bone marrow transplantation - the first successful treatment of a disease by bone marrow transplantation involved a child with X- linked Severe Combined Immune Deficiency (SCID) in 1968. Bone marrow transplantation is now a life-saving treatment for thousands of patients each year with disorders ranging from primary immune deficiency diseases to cancer to serious red blood cell disorders or inherited metabolic disorders. -- Systemic enzyme replacement therapy - the administration of missing enzymes to perform critical functions were first introduced as a treatment for a form of severe immunodeficiency resulting from absence of the enzyme adenosine deaminase (ADA-SCID). -- Gene therapy - an NIH team of researchers first administered gene therapy to primary immune deficiency disorder patients in 1990. Since then, international research teams have applied gene therapy to these diseases and continue to study further uses. -- Autoimmune diseases - The discovery that autoimmune diseases are often caused by Immune dysregulation has provided new therapeutic strategies using potent drugs that down regulate the immune system. These new drugs have been most successful in treating rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's Disease, psoriasis and others. "Today's announcement is an unprecedented commitment to understanding and one day curing these debilitating diseases and recognizes that research conducted in the primary immune deficiency community has applications for patients suffering from other serious ailments," said Principal Investigator Hans Ochs, M.D. "We believe this commitment by NIAID and NICHD will help us to take the lead in scientific discovery." The consortium will be administered by the Immune Deficiency Foundation and includes world-renowned immunologists and researchers across the country and around the globe. IDF was founded over two decades ago to help researchers develop treatments and, potentially, cures for primary immune deficiency diseases. The IDF works to advance research, advocacy and education for the primary immune deficiency diseases. The Steering Committee members represent internationally renowned researchers at University of Washington, Seattle, WA; Duke University, Durham, NC; St. Jude Children's Hospital, Memphis, TN; Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York, NY; Hopital Necker-Enfants Malades, Paris, France; Mattel Children's Hospital at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA; NIH, Bethesda, MD and others. "A key part of the IDF's mission has been to fund research for primary immune deficiency diseases and over recent decades the primary immune deficiency diseases research community has made incredible strides," said IDF President Tom Moran. "Now, this federal funding will enable IDF and the country's finest researchers to investigate new approaches. We anticipate great results for our community and the world." The Immune Deficiency Foundation (IDF) is the national non-profit health organization dedicated to improving the diagnosis and treatment of primary immune deficiency diseases through research, education and advocacy. IDF was established more than two decades ago by concerned families of patients and their physicians. Since its inception, IDF has expanded to offer medical education, fellowship and research opportunities and publications. IDF sponsors a biennial National Conference for patients, their families and healthcare professionals. More information about primary immune deficiency diseases and IDF can be found at www.primaryimmune.org.
SOURCE Immune Deficiency Foundation