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Interdisciplinary Team of UC Scientists Awarded $2 Million NIH Grant for Better Flu Diagnoses


Researchers at the University of Cincinnati have received a five-year grant to develop rapid, robust, user-friendly diagnostics for influenza virus.

Date: 6/16/2010 12:00:00 AM
By: Wendy Beckman
Phone: (513) 556-1826

UC ingot   An interdisciplinary team of scientists has received a $2.3 million dollar grant from the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The name of the grant is “Glycan Receptor Mimics for Rapid Detection, Typing, and Susceptibility Testing of Influenza.”

 PIs on the grant are Professor Alison Weiss, molecular genetics, in UC’s College of Medicine and Assistant Professor Suri Iyer, chemistry, in McMicken College of Arts & Sciences.
PIs on the grant are Professor Alison Weiss, molecular genetics, in UC’s College of Medicine and Assistant Professor Suri Iyer, chemistry, in McMicken College of Arts & Sciences. (Photo provided)

With the five-year grant, the team will develop carbohdyrate-based diagnostics for influenza virus. The principal investigators on the grant are Suri S. Iyer, an assistant professor in the Chemistry Department of the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences, and Alison A. Weiss, a professor of molecular genetics in UC’s College of Medicine. Also on the team are Monica McNeal and Mary Staat from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

Iyer’s lab specializes in a type of carbohydrate called a glycoconjugate that eventually can be used as a means of detecting the presence of toxins. The carbohydrates “recognize” the toxins on a surface, react and cause something to change — like the color of a solution, which could be read by a measuring device, for example. In this way, the carbohydrates are called a “recognition molecule.”
 
Through the grant, the scientists will synthesize a library of tailored carbohydrates. They will then incorporate these synthetic molecules into multiple diagnostic platforms and evaluate their performance to detect influenza using clinical human samples. As in their other collaborations, Iyer’s research group will create the molecules in their lab that then go to Weiss’ lab to be tested.

Iyer's newest grant is for his research in developing rapid detection and identification if influenza strains.
Iyer says that there is an urgent need to develop diagnostics to detect and type influenza strains. (Photo by Dottie Stover)

Successful completion of this project is expected to lead to the development of rapid, robust, user-friendly diagnostics for influenza virus.

“It is really exciting to find solutions to basic problems in infectious diseases,” says Weiss.  “Such advances require an interdisciplinary approach. Our team consists of synthetic chemists, microbiologist and clinicians.”  

“Early and accurate detection of influenza strains is critical for effective countermeasures, especially since new strains — for example, the 2009 H1N1 strain — can spread rapidly,” says Iyer. “There is an urgent need to develop diagnostics to detect and type the particular strain and we are excited to work on this problem."

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