Mississippi State creates host-pathogen interaction center

Published on November 20, 2013
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Mississippi State University has been awarded a $10 million grant for five years of support from the National Institutes of Health to further research focusing on diseases that affect animal and human health, according to an Oct. 3 MSU press release.

The main focus of MSU’s new Center for Biomedical Research Excellence in Pathogen and Host Interaction is related to infectious diseases. Researchers will be looking at how hosts react to Staphylococcus infections, how long Listeria organisms can live in bile, and how various flu viruses attack hosts, for example.

The NIH’s Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence provides competitive grants in support of multidisciplinary centers that strengthen institutional biomedical research capacity.  

The research will be conducted among three centers at MSU: the College of Veterinary Medicine; the Institute of Genomics, Biocomputing, and Biotechnology; and the Institute for Imaging and Analytical Technologies. The college will administer the grant and research activities.

“It is an extremely competitive process. Most of the applicants are human medical colleges,” said Stephen B. Pruett, PhD, head of basic sciences at the veterinary college and principal investigator on the COBRE grant.

Dr. Keun Seok Seo examines cultures of Staphylococcus organisms in his laboratory at Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine. (Photo by Tom Thompson/MSU)
The grant establishes a unique mentoring program for a core group of researchers.  

The MSU researchers in this group are Bindu Nanduri, PhD, and Dr. Keun Seok Seo, both assistant professors in basic sciences at the veterinary college, and Dr. Henry Wan, an associate professor in systems biology at the veterinary college.

“Dr. Seo is leading the way in Staphylococcus aureus research. What he’s studying is leading to vaccines that could protect cattle and humans from dangerous Staph infections,” Dr. Pruett said.

Janet Donaldson, PhD, associate professor with the university’s department of biological sciences, conducts research on the ability of Listeria monocytogenes and Escherichia coli to be resistant to antimicrobials and to colonize the gastrointestinal tract.

The researchers also will work collaboratively to design infectious disease research projects to secure further NIH funding.

“Mississippi State has a tremendous amount of expertise in infectious disease,” said Greg Bohach, vice president for MSU’s Division of Agriculture, Forestry, and Veterinary Medicine.

“We are honored to have NIH recognize this and provide the funding and the trust to take our research to the next level. The talent and focus is here, and we will continue to provide research that protects the safety of animals, humans, and the food supply.”