Public/private cluster pursue infectious disease issues
There isn’t a movie around that’ll clobber you with “scary” faster than the real-life bug Yersinia pestis, that vicious little plague germ.
Then there’s malaria: delivered by a mere mosquito bite, it stays with you for life. Or how about Dengue fever or Lyme disease or the West Nile virus?
They’re among the nastiest diseases know to humanity, and they’re being studied right here at the University of North Dakota by teams of high focused scientists. They’re tackling basic questions — defining the diseases, the bugs that carry them, and how they travel — all the way up to the problems or
treatment and cure.
Among the most intense centers of research in this area is the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, part of the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences.
“Academically at UND we’re growing, and the companies such as Novadigm doing this kind of research here are plusses,” said David Bradley, associate professor and department chair. “We have an adjunct faculty member from Novadigm. We have collaborative relationships with North Dakota State University, as well, including Dr. C. Satishchandran, professor and director of the Center of Excellence for Biopharmaceutical Research and Production. UND’s Department of Internal Medicine in Fargo has a large infectious disease unit doing a lot of clinical work.”
“The recent cholera outbreak in Haiti clearly tells us that infectious diseases, the epidemics, haven’t gone away,” Bradley continued. “They’re definitely still with us. Who knows what or when the next SARS — severe acute respiratory syndrome — or H1 will be? That’s very hard to predict.”
UND has joined the search for infectious disease agents, causes, vectors (the insect carriers) and therapies, Bradley noted. Other scientists are looking at the “cure” end of the research puzzle, dubbed “translational” science.
For instance, “Dr. Matthew Nilles asks bacterial questions, but he’s looking at how that affects the host, asking closer to translational questions,” Bradley said. “My lab is asking viral questions. I collaborate extensively with Matt.”
UND also has a group of scientists studying vector vectors, the critters that carry the disease agents and deliver them to animals and people.
“They’re doing vital research and as group, a cluster that works across disciplines, across departments, and across campuses. We all also collaborate with R&D companies such as Novadigm,” Bradley said. “When you have a cluster doing specific research, say, on a tick-borne or mosquito-borne pathogen, you’re much more likely to get funded.”
Juan Pedraza | Staff Writer