UTHCT scientist receives NIH grant to study genes that control tuberculosis bacteria’s response to host’s defenses

Thursday, June 9, 2005

A researcher at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler has received a two-year, $368,750 grant from the National Institutes of Health to study specific genes in the bacteria that cause tuberculosis.

Susan Howard, Ph.D., a UTHSCT assistant professor of microbiology and immunology at UTHSCT, will use the funds to probe how the TB bacteria respond to stresses caused by the human immune system.

“We are examining the regulatory system that allows the TB bacteria to sense stress and activate a protective response. By understanding how the bacteria respond, we can better understand how to attack tuberculosis,” Dr. Howard said.

The grant was awarded to UTHSCT by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the NIH. NIAID supports research to better understand, treat, and prevent infectious diseases, as well as diseases caused by allergies and diseases of the immune system.

In 2004, research expenditures at UTHSCT exceeded $10 million for the first time in its history, said Steven Idell, MD, Ph.D., vice president for research at UTHSCT. About two-thirds of the 30 biomedical researchers now serve as principal investigators on federally funded projects they were awarded after competitive, scientific peer review. Currently, the NIH funds only the top 16 percent of research proposals submitted by scientists throughout the United States.

Dr. Howard is principal investigator of the grant. Zissis Chroneos, Ph.D., an UTHSCT assistant professor of biochemistry, is co-investigator with Dr. Howard. In addition, Peter Barnes, MD, director of UTHSCT’s Center for Pulmonary and Infectious Disease Control, is a consultant for the research project.

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