NIH awards $14.5 million grant to OMRF for anthrax studies

The Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF) announced on Wednesday that it received a five-year, $14.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to continue its research on anthrax.

Mark Coggeshall, an OMRF scientist, and his colleagues have studied the human immune response to anthrax-causing Bacillus anthracis bacteria as part of NIH's Cooperative Centers for Human Immunology. OMRF first received funding for the project after 2001 anthrax letter mailings that killed five people and sickened 17.

"From the start, our goal has been to gain a better understanding of anthrax, especially its inhalable form," Coggeshall said. "By the time a patient seeks medical care, antibiotics become less effective, and the toxin essentially shuts down the immune response."

The Cooperative Centers for Human Immunology program seeks to identify new drug targets and vaccines. Coggeshall's team has focused its research on sepsis, the blood poisoning that results from anthrax exposure.

"We identified the trigger in the bacteria that causes this pathology," Coggeshall said. "Now we are seeking ways to override or disable it and make it less deadly."

Stephen Prescott, the president of OMRF, said OMRF scientists have studied how the human immune system attempts to form immune responses to anthrax bacteria.

"That non-traditional approach now is paying off, and this additional funding should bring about incredible advances in our approach to treating anthrax infection," Prescott said.

OMRF is a nonprofit biomedical research facility that seeks the understanding of more effective treatments for human disease.

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