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Bio-defense Research on Attenuation of New Pathogenic Strains

Award Information

Award #
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)
Original Solicitation

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2010, $750,000)

The Congressionally Recommended Awards Program, authorized by the Department of Justice Appropriations Act, 2010 (Pub. L. 111-117), helps improve the functioning of the criminal justice system, prevent or combat juvenile delinquency, and/or assist victims of crime (other than compensation). Funds should be used for the projects recommended by Congress, in the amounts specified in the joint explanatory statement incorporated by reference into Pub. L. 111-117, and generally consistent with one or more of the following statutory purposes: improving the functioning of the criminal justice system, preventing or combating juvenile delinquency, or assisting victims of crime (other than compensation). Each of these purposes is framed using language drawn, respectively, from the former Byrne discretionary statute, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, the Victims of Crime Act, and the Violence Against Women Act. This project is authorized and funded through a line item in the FY 2010 Congressional Budget and by the joint explanatory statement that is incorporated by reference into the FY2010 Department of Justice Appropriations Act.

The National Center For Biodefense Communications' (NCBC) principal goals are to support the national early warning system for biodefense by gathering and disseminating real-time human and health data nationwide and to carryout multidisciplinary basic and applied research in human and animal health related to biodefense. Given the massive number of pathogens, the vast number of potential pathogens in the world, and the nearly infinite number of mutations continuously arising in such pathogens, nearly every hyper-virulent strain must be self-eliminating or spontaneously lost. Even when deadly new pathogens do arise, they seem to routinely become attenuated and rapidly disappear or become only secondary infections, as evidenced in the case histories of Ebola, SARS, and the H1N1 outbreak. In this light, NCBC plans three general research goals: (1) to better document known instances of such natural containment/attenuation, (2) to use numerical simulations of the mutation/selection process to better understand the biological variables that lead to strain containment and attenuation, and (3) to make recommendations for managing new threats based upon findings which can be implemented into the early warning system.

To implement these goals, the following strategies will be employed. NCBC will modify an already existing software package called Mendel's Accountant to include the ability to model pathogens, cyclic bottlenecking, and group selection via parallel computing. This will involve the coordination of a group of researchers - one to research relevant parameters for already existing pathogens, one to study the nonlinear dynamics of group selection, and another group to oversee software development. The success of this research should be readily confirmed by the following deliverables: (1) a software program that researchers and emergency responders can use to study the effect of certain pathogens, (2) several useful research publications (a review paper on natural containment and attenuation of new pathogens, ecological constraints on the spread of new virulent strains, and strain attenuation via mutation accumulation), and (3) training procedures and recommendations for emergency responders.


Date Created: August 29, 2010