Karen Nelson, PhD, President, JCVI. (photo courtesy J. Craig Venter Institute.)
Karen Nelson, PhD, President, JCVI. (photo courtesy J. Craig Venter Institute.)

The J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) announced on Thursday, June 5, that it has been awarded a grant of approximately $25 million from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NAID).

The funding, to be provided over a five-year period, will enable the establishment and operation of a Genome Center for Infectious Diseases (GCID).  The center’s primary goal will be to further the scientific understanding of infectious diseases by focusing on the pathogens that cause them.  Research results will be made available to the greater scientific community.

Infectious diseases continue to be a worldwide scourge and are one of the leading causes of death, especially among children in Southeast Asia and Africa.  Malaria, for example, kills over a million people in Africa every year, and resistance to standard medications is at a crisis level.  One of the new center’s focus areas will be to study pathogen drug resistance and explore new ways to fight infections by drug-resistant organisms.

The research team, to be led by JCVI co-principal investigators Karen Nelson, PhD, and William Nierman, PhD, will utilize next-generation DNA sequencing technology, along with cutting-edge bioinformatics and computer technologies, to meet the GCID’s goals.  In addition to the group at the Venter Institute, 50 researchers from 40 institutions around the world will participate.

Click here to read about how UCSF researchers have used next-gen sequencing to make an actionable diagnosis on a patient.

The program’s principal objective is to utilize new technologies to study pathogen biology, drug resistance, virulence, host microbiome biological interactions, and immune evasion.  Three main research projects will be created, focusing on viruses, bacteria and parasites.

The J. Craig Venter Institute, which has facilities here in San Diego as well as Rockville Maryland, was created in 2006 through the merger of several affiliated research organizations.  Its founder, J. Craig Venter, is a DNA sequencing pioneer, having launched Celera Genomics in 1998 with the goal of sequencing the first full human genome within a period of three years.

Read more about J. Craig Venter and the recently announced $1000 genome breakthrough on the BioSurplus blog here.

Click here to read the full JCVI press release.