Infectious diseases symposium to kick off internal funding program

By Carol Clark | Emory Report | Sept. 12, 2019

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The “From Molecules and Pathogens to Populations and Pandemics” (MP3) initiative is led by professors Ken Moberg, Jaap de Roode and Guido Silvestri.

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The first Infectious Diseases Across Scales Symposium will bring together faculty, students and researchers from across Emory University, and beyond, who are involved in interdisciplinary work that transcends traditional boundaries.

Set for Thursday, Sept. 19, from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. in Whitehead Auditorium, the symposium is an inaugural event for a new basic science initiative, From Molecules and Pathogens to Populations and Pandemics (MP3), and the Infectious Diseases Across Scales Training Program (IDASTP).

The kickoff symposium will announce details of new internal Emory funding for collaborative research into emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases that cuts across scales — from the level of a pathogen to how a pathogen interacts with an individual’s immune system, how a pathogen spreads through a population and how it moves through an environment and jumps between animals and humans.

“We’ve already had 100 people RSVP for the event,” says Todd Swink, assistant program director for the MP3 initiative and the IDASTP. “Everyone is eager to learn more about the new internal funding opportunities and to become part of something new as we build on the already strong infectious disease community at Emory.”

You can RSVP here.

Seed grants for collaborative projects

The funding includes seed grants up to $250,000 to support collaborative projects on infectious disease research that transcends scales and startup packages to support new faculty hires. 

The event features two keynote speakers: Vanessa Ezenwa, from the University of Georgia, combines field studies with laboratory approaches to address key questions about the ecology of infectious diseases in wild animal populations; Jessica Metcalf, a demographer from Princeton University, studies evolutionary ecology, infectious disease dynamics and public policy.

The program will also include talks by three Emory faculty and an Emory graduate student, and time for networking. The Emory speakers are: David Civitello, assistant professor in Emory College’s Department of Biology; Cheryl Day, associate professor in Emory’s School of Medicine’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology; Lance Waller, professor in Rollins School of Public Health’s Department of Biostatistics; and Kelsey Shaw, a graduate student and IDASTP trainee in the Civitello lab.

“The goal of the networking is to forge new relationships among the infectious disease research community and springboard new ideas for collaborations,” Swink says.

Fueling interdisciplinary research

The aim of fueling more interdisciplinary research that cuts across scales, Swink adds, is to define novel targets for drugs and vaccines and to ultimately optimize implementation of new preventive and therapeutic interventions. 

The MP3 initiative is led by Jaap de Roode, professor in Emory College’s Department of Biology and an expert in host-parasite interactions; Guido Silvestri, director of microbiology and immunology at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center and professor in Emory School of Medicine’s Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine; and Ken Moberg, professor in the School of Medicine’s Department of Cell Biology.

Last spring, Dwight A. McBride, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, and Jonathan Lewin, executive vice president for health affairs, asked Michael Elliott, dean of Emory College of Arts and Sciences, and Vikas Sukhatme, dean of the Emory School of Medicine, to appoint and charge a Task Force on the Future of Basic Sciences Research that would identify priorities for investment through 2025. The result was the establishment of MP3 and a second research initiative, “Biological Discovery through Chemical Innovation.”

The Infectious Diseases Across Scales Symposium is sponsored by McBride, Elliott, Sukhatme and Lewin; Deborah Bruner, senior vice president for research; Laney Graduate School; the Department of Biology; and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.