Infectious diseases are among the most urgent public health and economic problems facing the Asia-Pacific region in the new millennium. Although the myriad factors responsible for the alarming global resurgence of infectious diseases are not fully understood, demographic and societal changes are likely contributors. That is, the unprecedented population growth since World War II has been one of the principal driving forces behind uncontrolled urbanization. Also, the rapid movements of people, animals (and their endo- and ecto-parasites) and commodities via jumbo jets and high-speed trains, along with the insidious breakdown of the public health infrastructure and the misplaced emphasis on curative rather than preventive medicine, have all contributed to the regional and woridwide resurgence of infectious diseases. In this context, as the principal U.S. institution of higher education engaged in bioscience research in the westernmost IDeA-eligible state, the University of Hawaii at Manoa (UH-Manoa) is strategically positioned to monitor the emergence and spread of newly recognized and re-emerging infectious diseases, by virtue of its geographic proximity and strong ties to institutions within Asia and the Pacific. During the previous five years, grant support from the Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE), of the Institutional Development Award (IDeA) Program formerly of the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), has allowed the establishment of the Pacific Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases Research, as a multi-disciplinary center of excellence for research on new, emerging and re-emerging microbial threats of regional concern and global importance.
During the next five years, COBRE funding from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) will strengthen and transform the Center into a translational science center of excellence for the development and deployment of improved diagnostics, effective treatments and affordable vaccines for infectious diseases, which disproportionately affect vulnerable underserved ethnic minority and disadvantaged or marginalized communities in the Asia-Pacific region. The Center will build on the achievements and gains leveraged during the initial grant period. Importantly, COBRE-funded improvements in research infrastructure and the State-financed construction of a state-of-the-art 200,000-square-foot BioSciences Building have exacted a “cultural change” by creating an academic home for tropical infectious diseases research at UH-Manoa. The previous grant period witnessed mainstream funding of approximately $17.5 million for non-HIV/AIDS infectious diseases research and training. In the new grant period, four promising junior and mid-career faculty will conduct hypothesis-driven research projects, which have been rated as outstanding to excellent. Thus, with strong leadership and dedicated Mentors, Collaborators and External Advisors, and complementary technical cores in Bioinformatics, BSL-3/ABSL-3 Biocontainment and Molecular and Cellular Immunology, as well as strong institutional commitment to recruit additional tenure-track faculty in infectious diseases and to subsidize core facilities, we envision accelerated growth of this high-priority multidisciplinary center during and beyond the COBRE funding cycle.
To be a regional translational science center of research excellence for new, emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases.
To develop and deploy improved rapid diagnostics, effective low-cost treatments and affordable vaccines for tropical infectious diseases, which disproportionately affect underserved ethnic minority and geographically isolated communities in the Asia-Pacific region.