The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has renewed its funding for 10 previously established Regional Centers of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases Research (RCEs).

The NIAID, which is part of the US National Institutes of Health, has also awarded funds to Oregon Health & Science University to set up a new RCE for the Pacific Northwest. The NIAID’s total funding commitment to the 11 RCEs for emerging infectious diseases comes to US$455 million over a five-year period.

The Institute also intends to augment this support with funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the economic stimulus package signed into law by US president Barack Obama last February. The NIAID expects to award up to US$20 million more over the next few years to qualifying RCE-based projects.

Under the terms of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, these projects would have to be completed within two years and would have to show a high likelihood of delivering significant advances during that period.

Among their current programmes, the RCEs are developing new or improved ways to treat, diagnose or prevent emerging infectious diseases including anthrax, West Nile fever, plague and dengue fever.

“The research accomplishments of RCE-based scientists have been excellent,” said Dr Carole Heilman, director of NIAID’s Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases. “Importantly, RCE researchers are collaborating extensively and are bringing new investigators into the field of biodefence and emerging infectious disease research.”

The 11 RCEs are distributed across 10 regions of the United States. The first eight were established in 2003 and two more RCEs in 2005, with each centre comprising a lead institution and affiliated academic institutions.