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University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences 

Pitt’s Regional Biocontainment Laboratory Receives $1.9 Million to Study Rift Valley Fever

PITTSBURGH, Sept. 29, 2010 – Long-sought treatments for Rift Valley Fever (RVF) may be possible with a $1.9 million contract to the University of Pittsburgh Regional Biocontainment Laboratory (RBL) from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, part of the U.S Department of Defense. The contract will enable researchers to explore the biological processes that underlie disease caused by the RVF virus, which poses significant risks to U.S. military and civilian populations as a potential agent of biowarfare.

“RVF is a serious threat because it can spread very quickly through both animal and human populations,” said Amy L. Hartman, Ph.D., principal investigator of the project, RBL research manager and research instructor, Department of Infectious Disease and Microbiology, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. “Epidemics have already occurred in Africa and Saudi Arabia, and the virus can potentially spread to the United States.”

Throughout the three-year project, Dr. Hartman and her team, including Doug Reed, Ph.D., RBL aerobiology manager and co-investigator on the contract, will be developing animal models of RVF that will mimic the disease seen in humans. “This research should help us understand more about how the virus causes disease in animals after respiratory infection, with the eventual goal of developing drugs or vaccines that can offer wide-reaching protection to populations at risk,” she said.

The Center for Vaccine Research (CVR) at the University of Pittsburgh houses both the Regional Biocontainment Laboratory, which is celebrating its second anniversary this month, and the Vaccine Research Laboratory. Researchers at the CVR develop new methods and strategies to prevent and treat infectious diseases, potentially improving and protecting global health.

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