Seattle BioMed wins $16M NIH grant for TB research

Seattle BioMed has been awarded a $16.6 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) that will allow the nonprofit institution to perform what it believes will be the most comprehensive analysis to date of tuberculosis progression from latent infection to active disease.

While TB is no longer an everyday concern for much of the Western world, one-third of the global population latently carries the bacterium that causes the disease. The Seattle researchers' work will focus on predicting which of these carriers will become actively sick with TB. The NIH will disburse the grant over a 5-year period.

"With this project, we hope to identify genes in both humans and bugs that work together to cause disease," Seattle BioMed professor and program director David Sherman said in a statement. "It will give us the first comprehensive picture of how TB, a notoriously elusive pathogen, progresses to disease."

Some 8.7 million new cases of TB are diagnosed each year, and drug-resistant strains of the diseases are becoming more problematic, posing new challenges to scientists looking for treatments. Nearly 4% of new cases and 20% of previously treated TB cases are resistant to at least one course of drug treatment, and in some countries, totally drug-resistant TB has emerged. 

Plus, TB's transition from a latent infection to active disease is a complex process, compounding the difficulties of studying the disease. The grant will allow researchers to study many sides of TB infection simultaneously, with the goal of learning how TB causes illness and why it infects certain people.

Over the 5-year grant period, Seattle BioMed, which focuses on infectious disease work, will collaborate with the Seattle-based Institute for Systems Biology (ISB) and the Swiss science and technology university ETH Zurich.

- here's the press release