Texas Biomed selected as premier national tuberculosis research center

SAN ANTONIO, March 29, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- Texas Biomedical Research Institute has been selected by the National Institutes of Health to host one of the nation's inaugural training centers for tuberculosis (TB) research.

The "Interdisciplinary NexGen TB Research Advancement Center" (IN-TRAC) will harness the extensive expertise, unique facilities and collaborations based at Texas Biomed and across South Texas, including the only free-standing TB hospital in the U.S., and field research at the Texas-Mexico border. The result: a world-class training program for the next generation of TB researchers.

"We do have to train the next and the best," says Joanne Turner, PhD, Texas Biomed's Executive Vice President, Research. "They're the ones who are going to implement a lot of the cures and treatments."

TB is one of the leading killers worldwide, infecting more than 10 million people a year and killing more than 1 million. The COVID-19 pandemic significantly set back TB prevention, diagnosis and treatment, and deaths from TB increased in 2020 for the first time in over a decade. More than 13 million people in the U.S. are estimated to be living with latent, or dormant, TB infection.

"California and Texas are the top two states in the country with cases of TB," says Texas Biomed President/CEO and principal investigator Larry Schlesinger, MD. "TB is not a phenomenon 'over there'. It's actually over here."

As part of its strategic plan for TB research, the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) solicited applications to establish the first Interdisciplinary NexGen TB Research Advancement Centers (IN-TRAC) in 2021, and pledged to fund up to five centers. Texas Biomed was recently selected to host one of these inaugural centers and will receive about $5.8 million over the next five years to support the training program.

The center will ensure that the next generation of TB researchers has diverse skills and real-world experience to tackle this challenging disease. The key is cross-training.

Post-doctoral scientists and staff scientists at Texas Biomed will not just study the basic science of TB bacteria, but will also learn about different animal models to evaluate new drugs or vaccines. They will also visit field sites to learn first-hand how robust clinical trials are set up and run, and go to the hospital to see patients with TB.

By getting this broad exposure from "bench to bedside," researchers will be better prepared to ask more insightful questions and set up more relevant experiments.

Texas Biomed is well-positioned to host an IN-TRAC. The faculty includes a large concentration of recognized TB experts who lead more than 40 researchers collaborating across disciplines. The institute also has a unique combination of resources and expertise in high biocontainment laboratories and developing animal models to study disease.

Collaborators include:

  • Blanca Restrepo, PhD, an epidemiologist at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, School of Public Health in Brownsville and UT Rio Grande Valley
  • The Texas Center for Infectious Diseases, a campus that includes the Heartland National TB Center – the only free-standing TB hospital in the U.S.

Funding information:

The IN-TRAC grant was awarded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number P30AI168439. The content of this release is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

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SOURCE Texas Biomedical Research Institute

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