Harvard Medical School launches TB Center of Excellence for Translational Research

Harvard Medical School recently announced the creation of three Centers of Excellence for Translational Research.

One of the centers will focus on tuberculosis, one on virology and one on bacteriology.

Three five-year grants totaling up to $15 million per year from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases will allow researchers to move discoveries about TB and emerging infections closer to applications in diagnosis, treatment and prevention.

The focus of the TB center, which will be led by Harvard Medical School Professor of Global Health and Social Medicine Megan Murray, will be improving diagnostics, especially in children, and combating drug resistance.

"The TB epidemic is still fueled by the fact that people are diagnosed relatively late in the course of their disease and a lot of transmission happens before diagnosis," Murray, who is also HMS associate professor of medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital and the director of research at Partners in Health, said. "There's no single therapy for TB, so there's a big need to know which drugs people are resistant to."

The TB center will use bioinformatics and evolutionary techniques to study approximately 1,500 TB strains collected from an ongoing clinical research study in Peru to characterize resistance mechanisms.

A project led by Eric Rubin will apply functional genomics to mutations found by sequencing to see if the mutations confer drug resistance while a third project will develop a diagnostic tool to be used in the field to test mutations associated with drug resistance.

The center's fourth project hopes to capture fragments of TB's genetic material from children.