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PUCP obtains international funds equal to US$ 1.2MM for national research on infectious diseases in alliance with the University of California, Davis

The Genomics Laboratory of PUCP, in alliance with the University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, obtained a fund of approximately US$1.2 MM to conduct research on the onset and spread of zoonotic and arbovirus infectious diseases in Peru. The financing was granted by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a part of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Autor: Fiorella Palmieri | Fotos: Héctor Jara
PUCP obtains international funds equal to US$ 1.2MM for national research on infectious diseases in alliance with the University of California, Davis

A great contribution to the country! The Genomics Laboratory of PUCP, in the context of a joint work with the US University of California, Davis (UC Davis) School of Veterinary Medicine obtained funds of approximately US$ 1.2 MM to conduct research on the onset and spread of infectious diseases, e.g. dengue, Zika and others, mainly in the areas of the Peruvian Amazon region.

In this international project, our Genomics Laboratory will participate as one of the seats of the Epidemic Intelligence Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases also made up by the Uganda Virus Research Institute in Africa.

Under the supervision of the UC Davis, one of the best public universities in the United States, this new high-level research site will coordinate an epidemic surveillance project within the perimeters of the forests of the Amazonas and Congo Basin, zones that are very vulnerable to new and emerging infectious diseases. In this way, it is sought to advance in understanding the onset and spread of zoonotic virus and arbovirus with the capacity to affect humans.

Peruvian research

“The study will be conducted nationwide, but focused on Iquitos, where these issues have been researched for decades. We are going to work in cooperation with the National Institute of Health and with a national and international experts network of various institutions”, says Doctor Mariana Leguía, director of the Genomic Laboratory of PUCP.

“The idea is to perform an epidemiologic surveillance in populations of animals living in wild, rural and semi-urban areas, and that, almost always, are reservoirs of zoonotic virus that may eventually affect humans. We are talking about animals; such as, bats, rodents and primates. We will also assess insects that are vectors of arbovirus transmission such as mosquitoes”, indicated Doctor Leguía. To complement the animal studies, simultaneous surveillance will be also performed on human groups in order to study the viral transmission from animals to humans.

In this project, the Genomics Laboratory of PUCP plays an essential role. “Our laboratory is specialized in the discovery and characterization of new and known pathogens. For this, we have the newest techniques and molecular tools to make diagnosis and advanced molecular characterizations. We have a lot of experience in this field”, added Doctor Leguía, main researcher in charge of the research to be conducted by the Epidemiological Intelligence Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases  in the country.

“Given that today the epidemics have the potential to become pandemics very easily, as we see with COVID-19, we will make a comparison between the virus circulating in Latin America and the virus circulating in Africa, through our collaborator in Uganda. This is a multi-disciplinary effort that includes veterinaries, entomologists, biologists, physicians, epidemiologists and laboratory experts”, explains Doctor Leguía, molecular biology specialist with more than 20 years of research experience.

Dr. Mariana Leguía (center) leads the research conducted by the team of the Genomics Laboratory of PUCP, also integrated by Diana Juarez (left) and Alejandra Garcia-Glaessner (right). Photo: Héctor Jara.

International financing

The Project will be financed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), an entity that will allocate a fund of approximately US$ 8 MM, throughout five years, to the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine to finance the Epidemiologic Intelligence Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases. Of the total of this fund, our Genomics Laboratory, as an associate member, will receive US$ 1.2 MM in five years to follow studies in Peru.

“The current COVID-19 pandemic put the necessity of conducting research on the potential onset of zoonotic virus on display, which usually jump from animals to humans. In this regard, as a part of this alliance with the University of California-Davis, our Genomics Laboratory may carry out a valuable work that will contribute to the country and to the world with studies that might help to avoid or control the onset and spread of new epidemic outbreaks”, stated Doctor Aldo Panfichi, PUCP Vice-president for Research.

Global project

The Center will be financed with the subsidy U01AI151814 from NIAID as a part of the  Epidemiological Research Centers for Emerging Infectious Disease (CREID), a new global network of NIAID centers located in various areas around the world where the probabilities of occurrence of emerging and reemerging infectious disease outbreaks are high.

The teams composing the CREID network are multidisciplinary; they have researchers that will carry out surveillance of pathogens and hosts, transmission studies, pathogenesis and immunological responses, and develop reagents and diagnosis to improve the detection of these significant emergent pathogens and their vectors. For more information, visit creid-network.org.

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