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News - 2007

Focus on Galveston for biotech growth
Galveston County Daily News, Dec. 16, 2007
Economic development officials from all across Texas courted Chris and Cathy Fredrickson as they prepared to open their biotechnology company eight years ago. They could have set up shop in Houston, Dallas or College Station, but the couple chose Galveston, in large part for its proximity to the University of Texas Medical Branch. The medical school’s research appeal will get a boost in about six months when the $167 million, federally funded National Biocontainment Laboratory opens, attracting scientists from all across the world to the island.

Aerosol launches immune response in lungs to wipe out lethal infections
Science Daily, Dec. 10, 2007
A purified extract prepared from a common microbe and delivered to the lungs of laboratory mice in a spray set off a healthy immune response and provided powerful protection against all four major classes of pathogens including those responsible for anthrax and bubonic plague, according to new research. Johnny Peterson, of UTMB’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology, is a co-author of the report.

Aerosol launches immune response in lungs to wipe out lethal infections
WebWire, Dec. 3, 2007
An inhaled immune system stimulant protects mice against lethal pneumococcal pneumonia and other deadly bacterial, viral and fungal infections of the lungs, a research team led by scientists at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center reports at a major scientific meeting. UTMB Department of Microbiology and Immunology researcher Johnny Peterson is a co-author of the research paper.

Research on encephalitis vaccines detailed by scientists at University of Texas, Center for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases
Calibre Macroworld, Nov. 29, 2007
New investigation results, “Chimeric Sindbis/eastern equine encephalitis vaccine candidates are highly attenuated and immunogenic in mice,” are detailed in a study published in Vaccine. The researchers concluded: “These findings support the potential use of these SIN/EEEV chimeras as safe and effective vaccines.” Eryu Wang, the principal author of the paper, is a scientist in UTMB’s Department of Pathology.

Experts 'fail' risk analysis for Boston bioterror lab
Washington Post, Nov. 30, 2007
An expert panel of the nation's premier science advisory organization yesterday gave a failing grade to a federal risk analysis used to justify construction of a controversial high-security bioterror laboratory in inner-city Boston. UTMB’s Galveston National Laboratory is mentioned.

Grant to fund research on cancer, metastasis
Houston Chronicle Bay Area, Nov. 29, 2007
Binhua P. Zhou, a researcher at UTMB, has received a five-year, $1.4 million grant from the National Cancer Institute. In addition, Medical Discovery News, a radio program by UTMB’s Drs. David Neisel and Norbert Herzog, can be heard in Houston on KUHF-FM 88.7. A series of cooking classes for diabetics, sponsored by UTMB, starts today in Dickinson.

Intent to grant an exclusive license of a U.S. government-owned patent
Calibre Macroworld, Nov. 24, 2007
An announcement is made of the intent to grant an exclusive, royalty-bearing, revocable license to a live-attenuated Rift Valley fever virus as a licensed human vaccine to UTMB.

Area counties prepare for possible flu pandemic
Beaumont Enterprise, Nov. 23, 2007
Dr. Norbert Roberts, an infectious disease specialist at UTMB, is quoted in this article about pandemic influenza. Some researchers have speculated the next human flu pandemic will arise from an avian flu.

Earlier bites by uninfected mosquitoes boost West Nile deaths in lab mice
News-Medical.net, Nov. 18, 2007
According to researchers at UTMB, there’s one more reason to try to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, scientists have discovered bites from mosquitoes that aren't infected by the West Nile virus may make the disease worse in people who acquire it later from West Nile-infected mosquitoes. The effect is induced by mosquito saliva, according to professor Stephen Higgs, one of the paper's senior authors. Also quoted is Dr. Lynn Soong, also a senior author of the paper.

How dangerous is a mosquito bite? More so than previously believed
Associated Content, Nov. 15, 2007
Researchers at UTMB have made a discovery that gives some new insight into West Nile Virus. They have found that if a mosquito that does not have the virus bites a person and then later that person is bitten by an infected mosquito he or she would have a higher risk of the disease being worse. The lead researchers are Brad Schneider, a UTMB alumnus who is now a postdoctoral fellow at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, UTMB professor Stephen Higgs and Dr. Lynn Soong. The rest of the team is graduate students Charles E. McGee, Jeffrey M. Jordan and Heather L. Stevenson.

Medical Discovery News comes to Houston radio
HPC wire, Nov. 9, 2007
UTMB’s Drs. David Niesel and Norbert Herzog have achieved an important milestone with Medical Discovery News, a radio broadcast program they launched in 2006. Beginning Saturday, Nov. 17, the pair will be heard from Houston’s KUHF public radio station. Local listeners have had to rely on the web to hear their insights into a wide and interesting range of biomedical science topics. Now they can tune in to 88.7 FM each Saturday morning from 10:58 to 11 a.m., between the popular shows "Wait, Wait-Don’t Tell Me!" and "Says You!" Or, continue to listen online at the Medical Discovery News web site. Medical Discovery News is now broadcast on 39 stations nationwide and in Mexico.

TACC partners with IBM's World Community Grid
HPC wire, Nov. 9, 2007
This article about IBM’s World Community Grid quotes UTMB’s Stanley Watowich whose research team is using the grid to find compounds to combat the family of viral diseases called flaviviruses, which include dengue fever, West Nile virus, hepatitis C, and yellow fever.

Association recognizes scientific researchers (Web link unavailable)
Houston Chronicle Bay Area, Nov. 8, 2007
Werner Braun, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, and Stanley M. Lemon, professor and director of the Institute for Human Infections and Immunity, were named as fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Also, Senior Services is presenting “Managing Negativity … in Self and Others” next Wednesday, Dr. Angela F. Gardner was elected vice president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, the AT&T Center for Telehealth Research and Policy at UTMB is holding a telemedicine conference starting Monday and the “Art and a Movie” fundraiser hosted by UTMB garnered $12,000 to benefit Children’s Hospital.

Compound to be tested as a shield against bioterror
Milwaukee Business Journal, Nov. 2, 2007
UTMB is mentioned in this article about a contract for development of the drug oglufanide disodium, which an Australian company is developing as a defense against bioterrorism agents. UTMB will test the drug against glanders and melioidosis.

AAAS members elected as fellows
Science, Oct. 26, 2007
Two UTMB faculty members were named fellows by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Werner Braun was named under the Section on Information, Computing and Communication and Stanley M. Lemon was named under the Section for Medical Sciences.

UTMB researchers to be honored at "Oscars of invention"
Impact Online, Oct. 18, 2007
Anesthesiology associate professor Joaquin Cortiella and internal medicine associate professor Joan Nichols are being recognized at R&D Magazine’s 45th Annual R&D 100 Awards —considered “the Oscars of invention”—for their role in creating an “immune system in a bottle” — a test-tube version of the human immune system that will enable biomedical scientists to quickly and cheaply screen large numbers of prospective vaccines and therapeutic compounds. “This award means a lot to us — it's recognition that our scientific efforts and those of our collaborators led to a product that will have a big impact on the way we develop vaccines in the future,” Nichols said.

Serum marker magic? Targeting hepatitis C
Corrections Connection, Oct. 8, 2007
Because of the unsteady support for treatment, the “Infectious Diseases in Corrections Report” spotlights a cutting-edge strategy by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice that identifies patients most appropriate for HCV therapy while avoiding the expense of a liver biopsy. Dr. David Paar, director of Clinical Virology at UTMB’s Correctional Managed Care, investigates why and how TDCJ uses the hepatic fibrosis serum marker, known as the AST Platelet Ratio Index, in its HCV evaluation and treatment guidelines.

Studies from University of Texas add new findings in the area of Rift Valley fever
Calibre Macro World, Oct. 11, 2007
This article refers to research by UTMB research assistant Rodion V. Gorchakov and colleagues who published their study in Virology ("Comparative analysis of the alphavirus-based vectors expressing Rift Valley fever virus glycoproteins.")

Académicos de la Casa de Bello inician colaboración con la U. de Texas
Universidad de Chile, 11 de octubre de 2007
El académico del Programa de Microbiología y Micología del Instituto de Ciencias Biomédicas de la Facultad de Medicina de la U. de Chile, doctor Roberto Vidal, está abocado a desarrollar una vacuna que permita combatir las diarreas provocadas por la Escherichia coli, productora de toxinas de Shiga. Para ello se hace necesario ahondar en la regulación génica de este patógeno, lo que llevó al doctor Vidal a convocar a un especialista mundial en la materia, el doctor Alfredo Torres, quien trabaja en la UTMB , Escuela de Medicina de la Universidad de Texas o University of Texas Medical Branch, quien está asesorándolo en esta labor.

SRI wins $9.5M biothreat contract
Conde Nast Portfolio.com, Oct. 4, 2007
RI International said Thursday it was awarded a $9.5 million contract by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, an arm of the U.S. Department of Defense. SRI said it would cooperate with other groups in the research, including the U.S. Army Institute for Infectious Diseases, Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research, the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, and BioRosettex Corp.

LeDuc discusses need for biocontainment labs
Channel 11 Fox 26, Oct. 4, 2007
Dr. James LeDuc appeared live on the Morning Show to discuss the need for and the safety of biocontainment laboratories like UTMB’s Shope laboratory and the Galveston National Laboratory, due to open in 2008. (A link was not available at deadline.)

Computer network aids crucial drug network
Chicago Maroon, Oct. 2, 2007
The University of Chicago has joined forces with IBM, Argonne Labs, and the University of Texas Medical Branch to develop drugs that will treat and cure deadly diseases such as dengue, West Nile virus, and Hepatitis C. (Similar articles appeared widely in September.)

Galveston National Laboratory construction progress update
UTMB Home Page, Oct. 2, 2007
As of Oct. 1, construction of the Galveston National Laboratory (GNL) facility is greater than 75% complete, according to Dr. Stanley M. Lemon, director of UTMB’s Institute for Human Infections and Immunity and the new national biocontainment laboratory. The $174 million project remains within budget and is on-schedule for substantial completion in July 2008. Small group tours of the facility are planned for late spring of 2008 and a public opening will likely be scheduled in the fall of 2008, Lemon said. As one of two national biocontainment laboratories being constructed with grants awarded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases/National Institutes of Health (NIAID/NIH), the GNL will provide much-needed research space to safely develop therapies, vaccines and diagnostic tests for naturally occurring emerging diseases such as SARS and West Nile encephalitis, as well as for other viral and bacterial agents.

Biosafety Breaches: Accidents Spur a Closer Look at Risks at Biodefense Labs
Science Magazine, Sept. 28, 2007
Clarence J. Peters, director for biodefense at UTMB’s Center for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases, is quoted in this article about safeguards at biosafety labs.

UT Medical Branch resisting open-records ruling
Austin American-Statesman, Sept. 29, 2007
UTMB continues to maintain that certain records relating to its biosafety labs requested by the Sunshine Project, which monitors biodefense research, should not be made public. UTMB and the UT System sued Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott in state District Court in Travis County in January to overturn his office's ruling that the records must be released. The medical branch and the university system filed a second lawsuit against Abbott in June concerning a similar ruling on additional documents requested by the Sunshine Project. “UTMB believes the competitive grant applications in question, and the intellectual property they contain, are protected by the confidentiality protections that govern federal peer review processes,” spokeswoman Chris Comer said.

Are biodefense labs a blessing or a curse?
San Antonio Express-News, Sept. 30, 2007
Dr. David Walker, chairman of UTMB’s Department of Pathology, and Dr. Stanley Lemon, director of the Institute for Human Infections and Immunity, are quoted in this article detailing biodefense issues. “We are all one world right now and infectious agents don't understand political boundaries,” Lemon said.

Hepatitis C Virus Induces E6AP-Dependent Degradation of the Retinoblastoma Protein
PLOS Pathogens, Sept. 27, 2007
Five of the seven authors of this paper are from UTMB: Tsubasa Munakata, Yuqiong Liang, Seungtaek Kim, David R. McGivern and Stanley M. Lemon.

Vaxinnate Initates Phase 1 Clinical Study of M2e Universal Influenza Vaccine
Thomson — Website for a healthcare industry consultants company, Sept. 26, 2007
This news continues to be picked up. Dr. Lawrence R. Stanberry, chairman of the UTMB Department of Pediatrics and director of the Sealy Center for Vaccine Development is quoted in this article about a test of a new flu vaccine.

VaxInnate Initiates Phase I Clinical Study of M2e Universal Influenza Vaccine
Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News, Sept. 26, 2007
VaxInnate Corporation has commenced its first Phase 1 clinical trial, testing its M2e universal influenza vaccine. Principal investigator Lawrence R. Stanberry, chairman of UTMB’s Department of Pediatrics and director of the Sealy Center for Vaccine Development, said, “We believe VaxInnate's approach to vaccine development has the potential to provide developing countries and regions with influenza vaccines that are less expensive and more effective than currently available alternatives.” This study is supported by a $9.5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to UTMB to better control influenza epidemics in the developing world.

NASA, NSBRI Select 17 Proposals in Space Radiation Research
Space Travel.com, Sept. 26, 2007
NASA and the National Space Biomedical Research Institute will fund 17 new research projects that will enable NASA to better understand and reduce risks from radiation for space travelers. Among the selected proposals is “Structural Chromosome Aberrations Formed in Response to Changes in Proton Energy and Dose Rate” by UTMB’s Michael Comforth.

Germs sent to space return 3 times as deadly
Houston Chronicle, Sept. 24, 2007
David Niesel, chairman of the microbiology and immunology department at UTMB, is quoted in this article about an experiment conducted aboard space shuttle Atlantis in which disease-causing bacteria were found to increase in potency as a result of 12 days in space.

Red River Radio starts airing new show today
Shreveport Times, Sept. 21, 2007
A new weekly medical show started on Red River Radio Saturday. Medical Discovery News will be broadcast each Friday at 8:33 a.m. during Morning Edition News. Each segment will be about two minutes. The program is hosted and produced by UTMB Drs. Norbert Herzog and David Niesel.

Nigerian virologist kicks off lecture series
Houston Chronicle, Sept. 20, 2007
Oyewale Tomori, chief executive officer at Redeemer's University in Nigeria and an international expert in virology and disease control, will make the inaugural presentation of the new Global Health Lecture Series at UTMB.

Medical school earns recognition
Houston Chronicle, Sept. 20, 2007
The School of Medicine at UTMB is one of the best medical schools for Hispanics, according to the September issue of Hispanic Business magazine.

The Shape of Pathogenic Proteins
The Scientist.com, Sept. 20, 2007
UTMB scientist Claudio Soto is quoted in an article about three papers by other researchers investigating the structure and size of prion proteins and their infectivity.

Group bringing biodefense research into the light of day
Austin American-Statesman, Sept. 14, 2007
UTMB is mentioned in this article about the Sunshine Project, a nongovernmental watchdog group that monitors institutions conducting biodefense research. The article focuses on the organization and its role in a recent controversy involving research at Texas A&M University which uncovered safety lapses and other shortcomings.

Red River Radio adds medical discovery show
Shreveport Times, Sept. 11, 2007
The weekly series, Medical Discovery News, hits the airways Sept. 21 and will be broadcast each Friday during Morning Edition News. The segments are approximately two minutes in length. The program is hosted and produced by UTMB Drs. Norbert Herzog and David Niesel.

Global computing effort to fight disease
Taiwan Industrial News, Sept.4, 2007
IBM, UTMB, and the University of Chicago are partners in a project to use the computational power of the World Community Grid, to identify drugs and their effectiveness in treating dengue fever, West Nile encephalitis, hepatitis C, and yellow fever.

Lack of training in biodefense research leading to dangerous leaks
Nature, Aug. 31, 2007 (Subscription required)
UTMB is used as an example of training.

Dengue fever research heats up
San Antonio Express-News, Aug. 31, 2007
UTMB’s Dr. James LeDuc talks about dengue fever and the search for a vaccine. He says Dengue has been an especially difficult problem for scientists because there are four viruses that can cause the disease. Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne illness that causes severe body aches. The most severe form of the disease can cause internal bleeding and death.

Study links fruit bat to Marburg virus
Los Angeles Times, Aug. 25, 2007
A species of African fruit bat may be the long-sought natural host of the deadly Marburg virus, according to a study published this week. The animal sustaining Marburg transmission has been difficult to find because outbreaks of the virus often take place in tropical settings teeming with different animals and insects. UTMB’s C.J. Peters, a virology researcher, is quoted: "We still haven't found a definitive reservoir for Marburg virus, but this is the best lead we have."

UTMB experiment returns on space shuttle
Galveston County Daily News, Aug. 27, 2007
UTMB researcher Dr. David Niesel discusses his experiment, a collaboration between UTMB and NASA.

Advancing bunyaviridae genetics
NewsRX.com, Aug. 23, 2007
Dr. Fangling Xu with UTMB’s Department of Pathology and the Center for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Disease has published new data on the sandfly fever group viruses in the Journal of General Virology.

Shuttle Brings Space-Grown Strep Bacteria Back For Study
Space Daily, Aug. 24, 2007
When the space shuttle Endeavour touched down at the Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday, UTMB microbiology and immunology department chair David Niesel was waiting by the runway, looking forward to a reunion with his own space travelers: Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria.

Researchers Say the 50,000 Years of Computer Time to Discover Cures May Be Achieved in One Year
News Blaze, Aug. 24, 2007
A new research effort by IBM, UTMB and the University of Chicago aims to halt the spread of dengue fever, West Nile encephalitis, hepatitis C, and a host of related diseases including yellow fever. UTMB’s Dr. Stan Watowich, lead researcher and associate professor of biochemistry discusses the project.

Also reported in Silicon Republic and numerous other publications.

Shuttle Brings Space-grown Strep Bacteria Back For Study
Science Daily, Aug. 23, 2007
Dr. David Niesel, chair of UTMB microbiology and immunology, talks about his space experiment.

This story also appeared in the Houston Business Journal (UTMB to examine space shuttle's galactic hitchhikers) and numerous news and online publications.

As biodefense research booms, reward is weighed against risk
Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Aug. 22, 2007
UTMB’s Dr. Stan Lemon is quoted in a story about biodefense research in Texas.

IBM and University Scientists Launch Global Computing Effort
CNN Money, Aug. 23, 2007
A new research effort was launched today by IBM, UTMB and the University of Chicago which aims to halt the spread of deadly infectious diseases around the world. UTMB’s Dr. Stan Watowich, lead researcher and an associate professor of biochemistry talks about the new project, including the World Community Grid.

BioTexas Summit set for Sept 24-25
Aug. 23, 2007
Registration is now open for the fourth annual BioTexas Summit, Vaccines and Global Health Issues: All You Never Wanted to Know about Vaccines and How One Could Change Your Life, to be held on September 24-25 in Austin. UTMB and the Texas Healthcare & Bioscience Institute (THBI) have co-sponsored the summits since 2004 to provide an opportunity for leaders in the pharmaceutical, academic research, policy making, and other related fields to discuss initiatives related to the life sciences.

Space shuttle brings strep bacteria back for UTMB study
Aug. 22, 2007
When the space shuttle Endeavour touched down at the Kennedy Space Center yesterday, UTMB microbiology and immunology department chairman David Niesel was waiting by the runway, looking forward to a reunion with some of its passengers. The space travelers Niesel was meeting weren’t astronauts. They were Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria, members of a species commonly found in the human upper respiratory tract but in this case riding in sealed experimental containers in the shuttle’s mid-deck.

Immunity with Nanoparticles, not needles
Technology News Daily, Aug. 16, 2007
A vaccine against anthrax that is more effective and easier to administer than the present vaccine has proved highly effective in tests in mice and guinea pigs. Experiments were done at UTMB which has labs federally approved for handling the pathogen.
Spirit India

Anthrax Vaccine Uses Nanoparticles to Produce Immunity
Newswise, Aug. 16, 2007
A nasal vaccine for anthrax showed strong promise in initial animal studies, according to scientists at the University of Michigan. Because of the biosafety restrictions on the use of anthrax, the challenge experiments were done at the University of Texas Medical Branch, which have labs federally approved for handling the pathogen.

Astronauts To Conduct Study of Bacteria in Space
Aug. 13, 2007
UTMB’s David W. Niesel is quoted in a story today, Monday, Aug. 13, 2007, in Science Daily News on a scientific experiment that astronauts on the Endeavor are conducting. The experiment is to monitor the effects of space on a common microorganism. Niesel is the project's principal investigator.

Landing lab could make tiny Flora 'grow and grow'
Aug. 12, 2007
Flora, Mississippi is one of five possible sites for the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility, according to a Sunday, Aug. 12 story in the Mississippi Clarion-Ledger. The site would possibly study Foot and Mouth disease, classical swine fever, African swine fever, Rift Valley fever, contagious bovine pleuroneumonia, and othrs. Universities involved with the research include. University of Mississippi, Mississippi State University, Jackson State University, University of Southern Mississippi, Tougaloo College, Tulane University, Iowa State University and University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.

Astronauts to Conduct Study of Bacterial Growth in Space
Aug. 10, 2007
David W. Niesel, a UTMB professor is quoted in a story on the Space Travel Website about a scientific experiment that astronaunts on the Endeavor are conducting. The experiment is to monitor the effects of space on a common microorganism.

The study also is on the Calibre Website and can be found at:

Event demonstrates need for preparedness
Aug. 10, 2007
The Villager in the Woodlands has an article about a bioterrorism attack drill held recently in Montgomery County that was conducted in conjuction with UTMB and the Montgomery County Health Department.

The article that the Daily Texan published Aug. 8 about the Sunshine Project and UTMB discussing a request by the project for records pertaining to the National Lab was posted Aug. 8 on Calibre, a portfolio-management Website under the auspices of Wachovia.

Group seeks information on biosafety in UT labs
The Daily Texan, Aug. 8, 2007
The Daily Texan, student newspaper of the University of Texas at Austin, includes a story today (Aug. 8) on UTMB’s efforts to settle a freedom of information request for documents concerning the UTMB Institutional Biosafety Committee. The request was made by Edward Hammond of the Austin-based Sunshine Project.

UTMB professor chosen as health ambassador
Houston Chronicle, Aug. 2, 2007
GALVESTON — Dr. James LeDuc, a professor and administrator at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, is among 24 of the nation's global health experts chosen as a "global health ambassador" by Research! America's Paul G. Rogers Society for Global Health Research. LeDuc directs the global health program within the Institute for Human Infections and Immunity at UTMB.

Bioterrorism Exercise: Event demonstrates need for preparedness
Montgomery County Courier, Aug. 1, 2007
THE WOODLANDS — Waiting to receive their "medications," Montgomery County volunteers received information about a bioterrorism attack. Hezbolla leaders had released an aerosolized version of the pneumonic plaque in Montgomery County libraries. County emergency rooms were filling with residents experiencing flu-like symptoms, and doctors feared a major outbreak. The scenario didn't occur, but it could. And if it does, The University of Texas Medical Branch at the Montgomery County Health Department wants to be ready.

Flesh-eating bacteria migrating north
Channel 11 KHOU-TV, July 30, 2007
CRYSTAL BEACH — Fishermen frequent Crystal Beach, getting waist deep in the Gulf to cast lines for speckled trout. But Steve Gilpatrick, 58, caught something else while fishing ankle deep in the surf he never expected. The Nacogdoches man contracted vibrio vulnificus, better known as flesh eating bacteria, on July 8 through a cut on his leg. What happened next is frightening. In less than a day, the fast moving bacteria moved up his leg discoloring it and painfully destroying his skin. Blisters soon developed a half-inch thick. The 58-year-old diabetic almost lost his leg -- and nearly his life. "They were able to keep him away from total organ failure,” Linda continued. “We were very close.” Flesh-eating bacteria lives in the warm Gulf waters. People rarely are infected. The Texas Department of Health said it only records a couple dozen cases a year. Twelve so far in 2007, said TDH spokesman Doug McBride. In fact, experts believe the real number of flesh-eating bacteria cases is much higher. What's worrisome though is this warm water bacteria is now being discovered in cold water, in places like Alaska, Sweden and along the eastern seaboard. "There's no question the water temperatures are increasing,” explained Dr. James Oliver, microbiologist, University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Gilpatrick is in stable condition in a second-floor care unit at the University of Texas Medical Branch. Doctors removed all the skin from his right leg and in five surgeries have started grafting new pieces on it.

A&M lab employee lacked clearance in bioagent case
Dallas Morning News, July 28, 2007
COLLEGE STATION, Texas — At least one Texas A&M University lab employee exposed to a dangerous infectious agent last year didn't have federal approval to work with it, according to records reviewed by The Dallas Morning News. And other high-level experiments were conducted in a lab not authorized for them, the records show. The revelations are the latest in a mounting scientific scandal at A&M, stemming from the university's failure to report to the federal government one illness and several other cases of workers being exposed to "select agents." The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has so far suspended the federally funded biodefense program's prize research and jeopardized its future. A&M has received the bulk of the scrutiny; 19 federal investigators left College Station on Thursday, after four days examining a Brucella infection and several Q-fever exposures in campus labs. But it's not the only Texas university with biological security breaches. Personal injury and occupational safety reports at the six state universities conducting lab-based biodefense research show just a handful of infections by select agents, such as anthrax and smallpox, over the last five years. Even with 350 facilities nationwide authorized to use select agents, CDC officials have learned of just 15 select agent exposure incidents since 2006. Among the cases reviewed by The News: An employee at the University of Texas Medical Branch pricked herself with a needle used to treat an anthrax-infected mouse in July 2006. The employee took antibiotics and did not got sick. "They're very rare — and most of them aren't even the kinds of exposure we're required to report," said Dr. Stanley Lemon, who directs the federally funded Galveston National Laboratory at the UT Medical Branch. "When they happen, we take them very seriously. ... The biggest hazard in a laboratory like these is to the lab worker, and it's being stuck by a needle. We work extremely hard to make the environment as safe as possible for these individuals."

Stobo: Medical school's future bright, mostly
Galveston County Daily News, July 26, 2007
GALVESTON — John Stobo sees widespread improvement at the University of Texas Medical Branch during his decade at the helm. But the hospital system continues to struggle to meet its commitment to care for those without insurance, he said Monday. What’s more, Stobo said he’s given up hope that the Legislature will pony up enough money to solve the problem. Stobo steps down as the medical branch’s president at the end of August. He announced his resignation from the post last year amid criticism about his handling of the institution’s latest round of job cuts and the implementation of other economies intended to put its fiscal house in order. Stobo oversaw his first round of such cuts shortly after he arrived in 1997. The primary cause of both cutbacks was the same — the medical branch’s inability to find new revenue to cover the growing cost of caring for those without private or government insurance. Despite the acrimony about the latest round of cuts, the medical branch has been the scene of numerous achievements during the past decade.

UTMB professor named health ambassador
Houston Chronicle, July 26, 2007
GALVESTON — Dr. James LeDuc, a professor and administrator at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, is among 24 of the nation's global health experts chosen as a "global health ambassador" by Research! America's Paul G. Rogers Society for Global Health Research. LeDuc directs the global health program within the Institute for Human Infections and Immunity at UTMB.

Cash injection for Dengue fever vaccine
BioPharma Reporter, July 25, 2007
CRANBURY, NJ. — The $597,000 grant will go towards a Dengue fever vaccine which makes use of VaxInnate's innovative TLR technology, potentially creating the first and only vaccine for this type of infection. The company's development program hopes to be able to produce a vaccine capable of protecting against all four different serotypes of the Dengue virus. "The greatest difficulty in developing a tetravalent vaccine has been in formulation," Jeff Powell, vice president of research, and William McDonald, group leader of biochemistry at the company explained to US-PharmaTechnologist.com. VaxInnate, in collaboration with the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), hopes to be able to achieve this tetravalent protection by using the company's TLR technology to develop a vaccine where other production methods have failed. The NIH grant to support the development of a Dengue fever vaccine comes on the back of positive proof of principle studies in West Nile virus, which showed that the TLR technology could have applications in a number of Flavivirus diseases, including Dengue fever.

Callender named UTMB president
Texas Medicine Magazine, July 2007
AUSTIN — The University of Texas System Board of Regents has named David L. Callender, M.D., MBA, as the next president of the UT Medical Branch at Galveston. He will succeed John Stobo, MD, who will step down as UTMB president on Aug. 31. Dr. Callender formerly served as associate vice chancellor and chief executive officer of the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) Hospital System. He also was an adjunct professor of surgery at UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine and is a member of the governing board of the University Health Consortium. Dr. Callender’s appointment was effective July 1.

NIH awards funding for collaborative Dengue fever vaccine development
Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News, July 23, 2007
CRANBERY, New Jersey — VaxInnate announced today that it has been awarded a 2-year, $597,000 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the National Institutes of Health to support the development of a tetravalent Dengue virus vaccine in collaboration with scientists at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB). This SBIR grant award is the result of proof of principle studies completed in a West Nile Virus (WNV) collaboration and recently published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Texas hospital to test new smallpox vaccine
Associated Content, July 20, 2007
With the current state of affairs in the country and the world, the word bioterrorist has almost become a part of everyday language. The medical researchers are taking the threats seriously, every threat needs to be. The researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston have begun testing a new vaccine with the thought of a bioterrorist attack in mind. The vaccine is for smallpox and it may have the tremendous benefit of causing less side effects than the vaccine that is currently in use. They set out on this research with one goal in mind and that is to produce a vaccine that will provide fast and safe protection from smallpox if there were to ever be a bioterrorist attack.

Protecting your children against West Nile
Galveston County Daily News, July 18, 2007
Column by Drs. Sally Robinson and Keith Bly
GALVESTON — According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, West Nile has been on the rise. In 2004, there were 2,539 diagnoses and 100 deaths; in 2005, 3,000 diagnoses and 119 deaths; in 2006, 4,269 diagnoses and 177. Texas, which has about twice the population of the Midwestern states, suffered 354 reported cases of West Nile disease and 32 deaths in 2006. Whereas, only one person in a group of 194,000 people in Illinois died of West Nile disease, only one in a group of 1.7 million people in Texas died. We accept dangers much greater than this every day. Although the family is in much greater danger every time it travels in a car, rare diseases that affect the nervous system frighten parents, especially those such as West Nile disease, where no vaccine is available for humans. So here are steps that can make the chance of contracting West Nile even lower: To minimize mosquito breeding, eliminate standing water in eaves, buckets, cans, bottles, tires, pots, pet dishes, tree stumps, ditches and any containers that may collect water from a rain shower. Mosquitoes can breed in about one thimble-full of water; Mosquitoes are most active just before dawn and at dusk. Keep the kids in during these times; Keep mosquitoes out of the house by checking that screen doors and window screens close tightly and are not torn; and make sure you and the kids wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants and that all exposed body parts have been carefully covered with mosquito repellant containing DEET.

Beachgoers should beware of bacteria
Brazoport Fact, July 19, 2007
Though summer months bring out more beachgoers and fishermen wading in area waters, it also fuels breeding grounds for a bacteria known as the "flesh-eating" bacteria. A Nacogdoches man contracted the rare Vibrio vulnificus bacterium July 8 while he was visiting Crystal Beach in Galveston County, the Associated Press reported. Steve Gilpatrick, 58, was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis, a tissue-destroying disease caused by the bacteria. Gilpatrick’s physician, Dr. David Herndon, the chief of burn services and professor of surgery at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, said Tuesday the situation is life-threatening because the infection spread to Gilpatrick’s blood. Gilpatrick is suffering from multiple organ failure, and doctors are trying to save his leg.

Outlook better for man infected in Gulf
Galveston County Daily News, July 19, 2007
GALVESTON — Steve Gilpatrick finally got some good news Wednesday. Galveston doctors told the Nacogdoches man he would survive deadly bacteria that infected him in the Gulf and that he likely would keep the leg that the bug contaminated. "He’s still very sick," his wife, Linda Gilpatrick, said Wednesday in an interview from the University of Texas Medical Branch’s John Sealy Hospital. It was the first glimmer of hope after a terrifying week for the Gilpatricks. On July 8, Steve Gilpatrick briefly went fishing in ankle-deep water at Crystal Beach, his wife said. Gilpatrick, 58, is diabetic. He had a sore on his leg that had almost healed. He felt fine until the night of July 10, when he awoke with chills and a 103-degree fever. One of his legs was especially hot and it had turned purplish-red, said Linda Gilpatrick. Medical branch doctors quickly determined that he had been infected with vibrio vulnificus, a bacterium found in all seawater. The same bug can make people sick when they eat raw oysters, especially in summertime. Healthy people almost always are able to fight off a skin infection by vibrio vulnificus, but diabetics are doubly vulnerable, said Johnny Peterson, a medical branch microbiologist who studies the disease.

"Flesh-eating" bacteria infections rare
Galveston County Daily News, July 19, 2007
GALVESTON — One strain of a "flesh-eating"e; bacterium is grabbing headlines since it infected a Nacogdoches man last week during a visit to Crystal Beach. But experts say there are a several types of bacteria that destroy human flesh. What’s more, they say, infections like the most recent one are rare. But that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t take some commonsense precautions when they’re around seawater. Steve Gilpatrick, 58, is recovering at the University of Texas Medical Branch after suffering an infection of vibrio vulnificus that could well have been fatal. He became infected after walking in ankle-deep water on a Bolivar Peninsula beach. The vibrio vulnificus bacterium, which is related to the one that causes cholera, exists in all seawater. Populations of it are especially great along the Gulf in summer, when the water is warm. Even so, only about 300 cases of infection were documented in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

UTMB tests new smallpox vaccine
July 17, 2007
UTMB researchers are testing a new vaccine for smallpox, which may cause fewer side effects than the current vaccine. The goal is to find the fastest, safest protection from this deadly virus in the event of a bioterrorist attack. The trial will compare the standard vaccine to the newer one, Imvamune, which has shown to have fewer side effects in preliminary studies..

Findings in virology provide new insights
News RX, July 17, 2007
Reports from the United States and Belgium highlight recent research in virology. According to recent research from the United States, "Alphaviruses are arthropod-borne viruses (arboviruses) that include a number of important human and animal pathogens. Their replication proceeds in the cytoplasm of infected cells and does not directly depend on nuclei. "We have developed a set of recombinant Sindbis (SIN) viruses with green fluorescent protein (GFP) insertions in one of the nonstructural proteins, nsP3, to further understand the RCs' genesis and structure," said Elena Frolova and colleagues at the University Texas Medical Branch. "We studied the assembly of nsP3/GFP-containing protein complexes at different stages of infection and isolated a combination of cellular proteins that are associated with SIN nsP3." They reported, "We demonstrated the following: SIN nsP3 can tolerate the insertion of GFP into different fragments of the coding sequence; the designed recombinant viruses are viable, and their replication leads to the assembly of nsP3/GFP chimeric proteins into gradually developing, higher-order structures differently organized at early and late times post-infection; at late times post-infection, nsP3 is assembled into complexes of similar sizes, which appear to be bound to cytoskeleton filaments and can aggregate into larger structures Frolova and her coauthors published their study in the Journal of Virology (Formation of nsP3-specific protein complexes during Sindbis virus replication. J Virol, 2006;80(8):4122-4134).

Flesh-eating bacteria put man's life at risk
Houston Chronicle, July 18, 2007
GALVESTON — A Nacogdoches man who was infected by flesh-eating bacteria while swimming off Galveston County's Crystal Beach still faces the threat of losing a leg — and possibly his life — despite three surgeries. Steve Gilpatrick is fighting necrotizing fasciitis, a tissue-destroying disease caused by a bacterium called Vibrio vulnificus. The retired oil company marketing consultant also is suffering from multiple organ failure because the disease has caused a blood infection, his physician said Tuesday. Gilpatrick, 58, was listed in critical but stable condition. The bacterium thrives in warm salt water and is most prevalent during summer months. Swimmers with compromised immune systems, such as cancer patients or people with liver disease, are most susceptible to the disease. To be contracted through contaminated water, the bacteria need a point of entry, such as an open wound. Gilpatrick, who is diabetic, had an ulcer on his lower leg that he believed was nearly healed when he went swimming during a fishing trip on July 8, his wife said. His leg became infected three days later and he began running a high fever, spurring them to head for the emergency room. There also is a risk of death in patients whose Vibrio vulnificus infection spreads to the blood, as it has in Gilpatrick's case, said his physician, Dr. David Herndon, who is chief of burn services and professor of surgery at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. Herndon said he sees about one case of necrotizing fasciitis, which can be caused by several bacteria, each month. But Vibrio vulnificus infections are not as common, he said, noting that John Sealy Hospital receives only two or three cases in a year. The Texas Department of State Health Services reported 54 cases of Vibrio vulnificus infection in 2006. At least 16 were caused by water contact.

Bioagent research funds may put safety at risk -- Universities fear loss of funds, don't report problems, foes say
Dallas Morning News, July 4, 2007
AUSTIN — Texas universities have sought and won hundreds of millions of dollars in federal biodefense research grants since the Sept. 11 attacks, building high-security labs to study infectious diseases that could be turned into deadly weapons. But news last week that Texas A&M University had failed to report the exposure of four lab workers to infectious diseases — and the indefinite suspension Saturday of all the university's research on "select agents" — has prompted renewed safety concerns. Experts say the research is as safe as it can be. Lab workers at the 350 facilities nationwide authorized by the CDC to handle select agents — everything from the Ebola virus to smallpox — are highly trained, and their lab work is closely regulated by the agency at specific checkpoints. Federal officials say the research is all defensive: The country must protect itself from infectious agents that, if released here, could wipe out livestock, damage food and water supplies, or cause widespread illness and death. Opponents argue that labs are effectively creating deadly diseases in their effort to seek vaccines — and they say the research violates the spirit of a decades-old treaty banning the manufacture of biological weapons. In the midst of this debate is Texas, a national leader in biodefense research and a top recipient of federal funding. The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, a federally sanctioned "Regional Center of Excellence" for bioterrorism research, is home to one of the country's few bio-safety level 4 facilities. It has received about $350 million in federal grants since 2002 to construct labs and research the world's most dangerous biological agents. The campus is one of two in the U.S. chosen by federal authorities to house a new national biocontainment laboratory. Dr. Stanley Lemon, a UTMB professor of microbiology and immunology who directs the federally funded Galveston National Laboratory, said that over the last five years, his university has recorded 17 cases of potential exposure to infectious diseases, just a few of those from the biodefense department. None of them resulted in infections, he said, and only one — a potential exposure where a lab worker was pricked by a needle that had been used on a mouse being treated for anthrax poisoning — was serious enough that the lab reported it to CDC.

NASA extends bioastronautics contract
United Press International, July 3, 2007
HOUSTON, July 3 (UPI) — NASA has exercised a $294 million option to extend a bioastronautics contract with Wyle Laboratories Inc. of Houston. The extension supports the Space Life Sciences Directorate at NASA's Johnson Space Center to 2011. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration said Wyle also supports the International Space Station, space shuttle Constellation and the Human Research programs at Johnson; the Kennedy Space Center's programs in Florida; and NASA projects at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.

CDC Halts Disease Research at Texas A&M U. (Subscription required)
Chronicle of Higher Education, July 2, 2007 (email)
COLLEGE STATION — Texas A&M University has been ordered to immediately halt all work on federally supported research on the most dangerous infectious diseases, after the university allegedly failed to report two cases of exposure of laboratory workers. A spokeswoman for the Texas A&M University system confirmed on Sunday that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had indefinitely suspended the university from doing work on "select agents" monitored by the agency. The ban was originally reported in The Dallas Morning News. Partners in the center are the University of California at Davis, the University of Southern California, and the University of Texas Medical Branch.

UTMB hones biosafety focus with smallpox vaccines trial
Houston Business Journal, June 29, 2007
When The University of Texas Medical Branch was awarded funding in 2003 for one of two national biocontainment laboratories, officials expected the lab to help attract top-secret, defense-related research work to Galveston. Now, with about a year still to go before the $167 million building opens, UTMB and several other universities across the country will begin a joint bioterrorism trial next month, sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to test the effectiveness of a new smallpox vaccine.

Group warns of biological agent research
Ft. Worth Star Telegram, June 28, 2007
AUSTIN -- Unbeknownst to many Texans, at least a half a dozen facilities in the state are handling biological warfare agents -- including one at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas -- according to an organization that disclosed what appears to be an accident with an infectious agent at Texas A&M University. Edward Hammond, executive director of the Austin-based Sunshine Project, also said that the personnel and funding devoted to biological warfare research have increased by about tenfold in the United States over the last five years. Although the research is supposed to be defensive in nature, the advocacy group says the little-known biological weapons rush in the United States could lead to an accident potentially more devastating than any attack from the outside. Hammond said. "Is such a huge expansion a good idea? I think the answer is no. And at least if we're going to do it, can we have a good regulatory safety system?" Hammond's biological weapons watchdog group Tuesday revealed information it obtained indicating that three people at a research facility at Texas A&M had become infected with a biological weapons agent known as Q fever. The organization alleged that Texas A&M did not report the infections to the federal Centers for Disease Control in a timely fashion as required by law. The CDC says it has begun an investigation. Hammond said Wednesday that it appears that university officials did not notify the CDC of the Q fever infections during a visit by CDC officials who were investigating the Brucella incident. He said that the federal government should impose big penalties in the case, which he said also illustrates why the federal government should improve regulatory oversight of biological weapons labs. Besides Texas A&M, Hammond said, other Texas institutions handling potentially dangerous biological weapons agents include the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, which he said is working on a new national center for biological defense research; and San Antonio's Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research, which he said has a laboratory equipped to handle the world's most dangerous organisms.

CDC probes A&M bioweapons infections - Researchers' exposure to weapons agents not reported promptly
Dallas Morning News, June 27, 2007
AUSTIN — Federal authorities are investigating two cases from last year in which Texas A&M researchers were infected with biological weapons agents — including the university's failure to report the exposures when they happened. New documents obtained by The Sunshine Project, an Austin-based bioweapons watchdog group, show three researchers tested positive for exposure to the weapons agent Q fever in April 2006, two months after another researcher fell ill following contact with the agent Brucella. In neither case did university officials immediately report the exposures to the Centers for Disease Control, as federal law requires. They filed a report on the Brucella case a year after the initial infection, and CDC officials said Tuesday that they still haven't received documentation on the Q fever case. Von Roebuck, a CDC spokesman, said that the agency is still investigating the Q fever exposure, and that it has turned the Brucella infection over to the Health and Human Services inspector general for further investigation. Officials in that office could not be reached for comment. The Brucella incident occurred in February 2006, after an experiment to expose mice to the agent. The researcher who climbed into a chamber to disinfect it — a procedure that documents indicate has since been changed — was home sick for several weeks before her personal physician made the brucellosis diagnosis. Much of the bioterrorism work under way at A&M is part of a partnership with the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. UTMB is one of several NIH "regional centers of excellence for bioterrorism research," and, according to the Sunshine Project's estimates, has been earmarked more than $175 million since 2002 to study infectious diseases and biological weapons such as anthrax and smallpox.

HIV survival improves if patients stay in care
Eureka Alert, May 11, 2007
HOUSTON — People with HIV who drop out of care do not live as long as those who remain under a doctor's treatment, said Baylor College of Medicine and Veterans Affairs researchers in a report published in the June 1 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases and available on line. "In an era when highly active therapy directed against HIV (the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS) is keeping people alive, understanding the value of regular medical care is crucial," said Dr. Thomas Giordano, assistant professor of medicine — infectious diseases at BCM and lead author of the report. Others who took part in this work include Drs. A. Clinton White, Jr., Maria E. Suarez-Almazor, Christine Hartman, and Robert O. Morgan of BCM and the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Houston. White is now with The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston and Suarez-Almazor is with The UT M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

Cellular protein found that interferes with hepatitis C virus replication
Medical Research News, May 1, 2007
GALVESTON, Texas — Biomedical researchers have identified a cellular protein that interferes with hepatitis C virus replication, a finding that ultimately may help scientists develop new drugs to fight the virus. The anti-hepatitis C activity of the protein, called, p21-activated kinase 1, (PAK1), was discovered by scientists at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB), who describe their findings in an article in the current issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry. In addition to presenting the researchers, discovery that PAK1 controls the rate at which hepatitis C virus replicates, the paper describes the biochemical pathways that lead to PAK1 activation and the specific mechanisms by which PAK1 interferes with the ability of hepatitis C to hijack liver cells and make more copies of itself.

New mosquito-borne illness may be headed to United States
PhysOrg,Com, April 26, 2007
VERA BEACH, Florida — The next mosquito-borne illness in the United States may be chikungunya (”chicken-GUN-ya”) and despite its odd name the viral disease is no laughing matter, University of Florida experts say.Though generally not fatal, chikungunya has sickened 1.6 million people in the Indian Ocean region since early 2005 and could be transmitted by two mosquitoes found in the southern United States, said Walter Tabachnick of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. It’s not possible to predict when a U.S. chikungunya outbreak might occur but experts agree on the likely scenario, said Tabachnick, director of the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory in Vero Beach. Few U.S. universities study chikungunya, partly because funding is scarce, said Stephen Higgs, a pathology professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. Higgs, who’s studied the disease for several years, said the United States should have been better prepared for the West Nile disease outbreak in 1999. “There was a tremendous influx of funding for research of vector-borne diseases after the West Nile virus was introduced, but that has diminished,” he said. “We need to maintain expertise in this country.”

Researchers find hepatitis A and hepatitis C attack same protein to block immune defenses
For Immediate Release: April 18, 2007
GALVESTON, Texas - Despite the fact that they both infect the liver, the hepatitis A and hepatitis C viruses actually have very little in common. The two are far apart genetically, are transmitted differently, and produce very different diseases. Hepatitis A spreads through the consumption of fecal particles from an infected person (in pollution-contaminated food or water, for example), but hepatitis C is generally transmitted only by direct contact with infected blood. Hepatitis A produces fever, nausea and abdominal pain that can last for weeks, but rarely lead to death; hepatitis C, by contrast, often spends decades quietly damaging the liver, until a victim’s only hope for survival is an organ transplant.