HHS Announces Funding for Northeast Biodefense Research Center of Excellence

Columbia University, NYS Health Department's Wadsworth Center Laboratories, and AMDeC to Lead Regional Consortium Project

September 5, 2003 – The Northeast Biodefense Center (NBC), a consortium of academic and governmental biomedical research organizations and public health agencies led by Columbia University, the Academic Medicine Development Corporation (AMDeC) and the Wadsworth Center of the New York State Department of Health, has been awarded a multi-year federal grant in excess of $9 million per year to focus on biodefense research. The award, from the Department of Health and Human Services, is to establish one of eight Regional Centers of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases Research (RCE). These multidisciplinary centers are key elements of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease's strategic plan for biodefense research and will be an important adjunct to National Biodefense Laboratories (NBL)—such as the one proposed for the Griffiss Technology Park in Rome, New York. Scientists associated with the Regional Centers of Excellence will utilize NBL facilities to safely conduct research on select microbial agents.

The RCE program's primary role is to foster the physical and intellectual environments in which wide-ranging research on infectious diseases can proceed productively and securely. The Centers will support investigator-directed research with an emphasis on the development and testing of vaccine, therapeutic and diagnostic concepts. In addition, the RCEs will offer specialized training in biodefense research activities for investigators and other personnel; maintain scientific core facilities available to approved investigators from academia, government, biotech companies and the pharmaceutical industry; and provide facilities and support to first responders in the event of a national biodefense emergency.

The NBC's principal investigator and scientific director is Ian Lipkin, M.D., director of the Greene Infectious Disease Laboratory at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health who holds a joint appointment at the Wadsworth Center. Lawrence S. Sturman, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Department of Health's Wadsworth Center laboratories, is the administrative director of the consortium, which encompasses 86 researchers from 29 institutions. Neal Cohen, M.D., former New York City Health Commissioner who directs the Center for Biodefense of the AMDeC Foundation, a consortium of 39 academic medical and research institutions in New York, will play a key role in guiding the collaborative aspects of the NBC.

Lee C. Bollinger, president, Columbia University said, "In a time when new infectious diseases appear with increasing frequency, and terrorism is a persistent looming threat, collaborative efforts that unite research and expertise across institutional and geographic boundaries are essential to human welfare. The Northeast Biodefense Center, born in the aftermath of 9/11, is one such effort and, hopefully, a paradigm for others as well."

The NBC will capitalize on the northeast's rich biomedical research resources and experience in dealing with the World Trade Center tragedy, the subsequent anthrax attacks, and the first appearance of West Nile virus in the Western Hemisphere.

New York State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D., M.P.H., Dr.P.H. said, "The Wadsworth Center laboratories have long been on the forefront of cutting edge science and this award will support crucial research to protect public health. Governor Pataki and I are proud that NIH has recognized the outstanding scientific and technological expertise represented in our consortium. Together we can make important advances in biodefense research and further our knowledge of emerging infectious diseases for the benefit of the entire Northeast region."

"I would like to congratulate Governor Pataki, Dr. Novello and the entire team of Department of Health scientists and their consortium partners for winning this very important designation," Russell W. Bessette, M.D., Executive Director, New York State Office of Science, Technology and Academic Research (NYSTAR), said. "Being named a Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases Research will ensure that New York State remains a key component in crafting the nation's strategic plan for biodefense research. In addition, this designation will lead to other developments that will help foster the technological innovations that will have a long-term, job-creating impact on the State's economy. This is truly one that will do that."

Maria K. Mitchell, president and CEO of AMDeC, said: "New York's medical leaders created AMDeC to foster collaboration among our world class medical research institutions. Today's award to the Northeast Biodefense Center validates this far-sighted vision. Even before proposals were solicited by the National Institutes of Health, AMDeC's Center on Biodefense was facilitating collaborations among medical researchers and public health experts, helping our region to rapidly respond to our nation's call for assistance. Our successful joint proposal—involving 25 or more institutions in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and beyond—will allow this essential work to both expand and be sustained."

In addition to the lead institutions, other participants in the consortium are: Albany Medical College; Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Cornell University; Department of Energy (DoE) – Brookhaven Mount Sinai School of Medicine; New York City Department of Health and Mental Health; New York Medical College; New York Presbyterian Hospital; New York Structural Biology Center; New York University; Ordway Research Institute; and Public Health Research Institute (PHRI), NJ.

Also, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey; Sandia National Laboratories, NM; Stony Brook University, State University of New York; The Rockefeller University; Trudeau Institute; United States Department of Agriculture; University at Albany, State University of New York; University at Buffalo, State University of New York; University of Massachusetts Medical School; University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey; University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry; and Yale University.

Additional information on NIAID's biodefense program is available at:



New York State Department of Health: William Van Slyke, 518-474-7354
AMDeC: Kendall Christiansen, 212-686-4551
Columbia: Randee Sacks, 212-305-8044