Investigator Awarded $11.5 Million for Innovative Research to Understand and Solve Persistent Bloodstream Infections

Courtesy of the Lundquist Institute

The Lundquist Institute (TLI) at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center announced today that TLI principal investigator Michael Yeaman, PhD, has been awarded a grant totaling $11.5M from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), Department of Health & Human Services. Along with his role at TLI,  Yeaman is professor of medicine at UCLA, and chief of the Division of Molecular Medicine at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.

This new NIH U19 Center program will decode patterns of the human immune system and microbial pathogens that result in infections that are not cleared by antibiotics. In turn, defining such patterns will enable new ways to predict individuals at risk of such persistent infections, and inform best antibiotic regimens for cures. The focus of this U19 is on infections caused by the bacterium Staphylococcus, including methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) and the invasive fungus, Candida. These pathogens are among highest priorities for public health as determined by the NIAID and Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC).

Yeaman and team made previous discoveries that laid essential groundwork for this project to find new ways to prevent and treat persistent bloodstream infections. The new research will take an even more innovative approach to this goal. Traditional genetics focus on the sequence of DNA to identify potential correlates of infection and immunity. The new U19 award goes further—by exploring patterns in how DNA is modified beyond sequence in ways that impact immune response and antibiotic efficacy against infection. This exciting frontier of biomedical research is called epigenomics.

Working with Yeaman will be TLI investigator Dr. Scott Filler, expert colleagues from the Immunogenetics Center and Department of Bioengineering at UCLA as well as Duke University Medical Center, plus TLI co-investigators Dr. Liana Chan and Dr. Marc Swidergall. They will apply powerful immunology and computational methods to detect hidden epigenomic patterns within vast datasets. The ultimate goal of this effort is to accelerate discovery and development of new anti-infective agents, immunotherapies, and vaccines to improve and save lives.

“We will use state-of-the-art technologies in synergistic research to understand human-pathogen interactions driving persistence,” said Yeaman. “The challenge of infections that are resistant to conventional antibiotics is growing every day—and will pose an increasing threat to public health unless we find new, improved ways to predict, prevent and cure these infections.”

The research of Yeaman and colleagues at TLI continues to be a beacon of innovation. This new U19 award builds upon his recent $10M NIH U01 grant, which assembled a world-class team of experts to support conceptually new research in epigenomics of MRSA bloodstream infections. This new grant adds to Yeaman's exceptional track record as the Principal Investigator of research projects totaling over $30M in the past 7 years—each of which advances fundamentally new strategies to prevent and treat infections. His new U19 is the only funded NIH Systems Biology Center focused on infections caused by MRSA and Candida.

Source: The Lundquist Institute