New research initiative leverages UVM expertise in the College of Medicine, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences to develop strategies for decreasing the burden of infectious diseases.

Leaders at the University of Vermont and Larner College of Medicine today announced $12.3 million in funding for a new Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) called the “Translational Global Infectious Disease Research Center” (TGIR) that will join together two traditionally distinct groups of scientists to develop innovative approaches to prevent and control infectious disease.

The new research initiative will leverage UVM expertise in the College of Medicine, the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences, and also the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to develop strategies for decreasing the burden of infectious diseases, particularly in low-income countries. This is the fifth COBRE grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that the College of Medicine has secured over the past 17 years.

The TGIR-COBRE aims to bridge the gap between the biologic and quantitative data fields of biomedical research by developing institutional strengths in global infectious disease research and supporting the research careers of outstanding junior faculty in this field.

“Effective responses to infectious disease burdens and threats must capitalize on new technologies and analytical tools,” says Beth Kirkpatrick, M.D., principal investigator of the TIGR-COBRE, director of the Vaccine Testing Center and chair of the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics. “Together our TGIR-COBRE team can harness the opportunities of our combined areas of expertise and that of “big data” to improve health of global populations.”

Co-principal investigators on the TGIR-COBRE are Jason Bates, Ph.D., Sc.D., professor of medicine, and Christopher Huston, M.D., professor of medicine.

Specifically, the TGIR-COBRE will incorporate existing research strengths in human Infectious Diseases including the research of Dr. Christopher Huston and the platforms of the UVM Vaccine Testing Center, which include human immunology laboratories, clinical trials capabilities, and collaborations with international investigators and field sites.

The TGIR center will also incorporate the substantial expertise in complex systems and mathematical/computational modeling of the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences. Four junior scientists – with mentorship from senior scientific advisors – will be supported by the grant, including: Benjamin Lee, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics, who will research “Development of a B cell responses and serological immunity following rotavirus vaccination in infants:” Laurent Hebert-Dufresne, Ph.D., assistant professor of computer science, who will study “Network epidemiology and the quantification of behavioral interventions;” Sean Diehl, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine, whose research project is titled “Next generation correlates of protection for dengue;” and C. Matthew Kinsey, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of medicine, who will research “Discriminating latent tuberculosis from lung cancer in high-risk populations.”

Research conducted as part of this grant is supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the NIH under Award Number 1P20 GM125498-01.  The content is solely the responsibility of the grantee institutions and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.                                                              


Jennifer Nachbur