Research faculty members from the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI) and the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute (VTC) participated in a day-long collaborative infectious disease research discussion session on Friday, July 16, at VBI's on-campus facility.

A joint effort between VBI Associate Professor Biswarup Mukhopadhyay, VBI Executive Director Harold "Skip" Garner, and Thomas Kerkering, M.D., chief of infectious disease at Carilion Clinic and professor of medicine at Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, the goal of the event was to provide a forum for faculty members from both institutes to provide short presentations and participate in detailed discussion sessions to share information and build relationships for potential collaborative research opportunities.

"This is a true discussion session," Mukhopadhyay said at the meeting. "It's an opportunity for us to introduce ourselves and sit down and chat about our research and how we can work together."

Kerkering delivered the talk,  "The Demographics of HIV and Hepatitis C in Southwest Virginia and as a Reason for Out-Patient Infectious Disease Consultation," where he provided an overview of in-patient consultations involving infectious disease at the Carilion Clinic in southwest Virginia, as well as information about major worldwide disease outbreaks. According to Kerkering, patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and the hepatitis C virus (HCV), infected by one or both viruses, were among the most common reasons for the in-patient infectious disease consultations in this area of the state. He provided detailed statistical information about the cases, including gender, age, and race, as well as a map representing the geographic locations of infection. Kerkering explained that HCV " the primary viral illness that has major consequences" in southwest Virginia. He provided similar information concerning the occurrence of Rickettsial diseases such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and hospital-acquired infections such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

VBI Associate Professor Jean Peccoud delivered the talk, "Use of GenoCAD for Vaccine Development," where he briefly discussed his research group's ongoing efforts to identify applications for GenoCAD, an open-source software tool developed by the group that allows the non-specialist to design and validate large-scale genetic systems for use in basic biological research or product development programs. One project that the group is currently focusing on involves the vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), an RNA virus with a broad spectrum of hosts (low prevalence in humans) that has been identified as a good vector for therapeutic applications. The goal, according to Peccoud, is to deliver a "plug and play" platform for a DNA vaccine. If successful, this approach would need only a short manufacturing cycle and the end product would be fairly inexpensive to produce.

Other participants involved in the discussion session included:

  • Francois Elvinger, professor, Large Animal Clinical Sciences, Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine and Susan West Marmagas, associate professor, Public Health Services, Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine; "New Master of Public Health program"
  • Charles Schleupner, VTC professor, internal medicine, and director, Carilion Clinic Infectious Disease Fellowship Program; "A Phase 3, Multicenter, Randomized, Double-blind, Controlled Study to Evaluate the Efficacy and Safety of Peramivir Administered Intravenously in Addition to Standard of Care Compared to Standard of Care Alone in Adults and Adolescents who are Hospitalized Due to Serious Influenza" and "A Randomized Study of the Antibody Responses to Pneumococcal Immunization of an Immediately Post-Surgical Patient Population Compared to an Inpatient Medical Patient Population"
  • Tom Inzana, Tyler J. and Frances F. Young Professor of Bacteriology, Biomedical Science; "Nanoscale Photonic Biosensors for Rapid and Simple Diagnosis of Infectious Agents"
  • Marcy Hernick, assistant professor, biochemistry; "Exploring Enzymes in Mycothiol Biosynthesis as Targets for Drug Development"
  • Harold "Skip" Garner, executive director, VBI; "Universal Biodefense Array for Detection and forensics Analysis of Pathogens and Hosts"
  • Jay Rao, assistant professor, VTC infectious diseases program; "Investigation of the Clinical Role of PA0122 Protein/ and Gene Expression in Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Outbreak of Acinetobacter baumannii: Not an Old Friend, but a New Enemy in the Hospital Setting"
  • Dorothy Garner, M.D., assistant professor, clinical faculty, VTC; "A Preliminary Study of Patients with Clostridium Difficile to Identify Potential Factors Related to Management of Special Enteric Contact Isolation"
  • Nammalwar Sriranganathan, professor, VTC infectious diseases program; "Targeted Drug Delivery Against Intracellular Bacterial Pathogens"
  • Chris Lawrence, associate professor, VBI; "The Role of Fungi in Allergic Inflammation and Invasive Disease of Mammals: From Genomes to the Clinic"
  • Rahul Kulkarni, assistant professor, physics; "Bioinformatic and Experimental Approaches to Virulence Regulation by the Global Regulator RsmA"
  • Sharon Lawson, senior grants and contracts manager, VBI; W. Eryn Perry, grants management director, VTC; and Carrie Boyd, Director, clinical trials and sponsored projects, Carilion Clinic; "Submission of Collaborative Grants"

It was clear that several collaborations have been initiated as a consequence of the interactions and exchange of capabilities and interests," Garner said following the session. "This was in the area of infectious diseases only.  It is clear that we should have more of these kinds of sessions in the future, where researchers at VBI and many other clinical departments are brought together.  As more and more researchers from VTC Research Institute and students and faculty at VTC School of Medicine arrive in Roanoke, their participation will further amplify the many types of collaborations that are initiated in these types of meetings."

Susan Bland
Public Relations Practitioner
Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech

Published by Susan Bland, July 19, 2010