SARANAC LAKE — Trudeau Institute has received a $1,890,558 grant for research into the impacts of aging on the immune system.
The federal investment from the National Institute of Health is the first installment of a five-year research grant for Trudeau, worth a total of $9 million.
Among the largest given by the institute this year, the grant furthers the work of Dr. Laura Haynes, who is discovering how aging impacts immune response to influenza infection.
The award comes within days of another $3 million in project funding — a portion of which goes to Trudeau scientist Dr. Stephen Smiley for his work in figuring out how biopharmaceuticals can prevent Listeria infection.
Smiley will subcontract to perform a Trudeau-based study of treatment therapy developed by Aronora Inc., a biopharmaceutical company in Oregon.
Both Haynes and Smiley’s projects are “translational” research, meaning they will move from Trudeau Institute’s laboratory analysis to human trials in clinical settings.
Both doctors are collaborating with medical facilities outside the Saranac Lake region.
In interviews Thursday with the Press-Republican, both doctors said the awards point to Trudeau’s reach from a home location in Saranac Lake.
“It is completely possible to do from Saranac Lake,” Smiley said. “This is proof. A misconception put out there through the whole relocation debate was this idea you could only do this research if you are at a medical center.”
In reality — and the same is true for most ongoing research worldwide — when a discovery is under way, scientists use tools to find out who else is working on the same topic.
Many times, the studies converge.
“Together, you are more quickly able to move things forward,” Smiley said.
“We made a discovery at Trudeau, and it was apparent this group in Oregon was on a similar trajectory — we are now collaborating. Our reach from here is truly based on (the convention) that Trudeau has great, demonstrated expertise in the human-immune-system research.
“They get access to not just me but to colleagues that I talk with every day.”
Haynes said her research, which extends out five years, will expand to human trials at the University of Connecticut and at the University of Massachusetts.
“This is a continuation of an ongoing collaboration,” she said Thursday.
“What is really nice is that we can do very high-caliber science in a place like Saranac Lake. We don’t need to be in a large medical center to do this.”
Haynes’s project will add a few jobs to Trudeau’s workforce.
“Mostly what we’ve accomplished is the ability to retain the talent we have already,” she said.
Her research at Trudeau has found what may be a whole new science for an age-specific vaccine: There is an age-related change in the molecules that direct the movement of immune cells.
“Yes, maybe there will be a flu vaccine targeting the elderly population,” she said.
“It’s a bit more of what they are calling personalized medicine. One size doesn’t fit all anymore.”
Haynes received word of the award Tuesday.
“And it’s going to start June.15.”
Smiley’s project also will move from Trudeau research directly into human clinical trials.
“Aronora’s therapeutic approach helps mice survive severe infections caused by Listeria, a bacterium that can cause serious human illness, especially among the elderly, the very young and those with compromised immune systems,” he said in a statement describing the project.
“The goal now is to determine whether this same approach will also work for other types of bacterial infections.”
Smiley’s is the first NIH Small Business Innovation Research Grant that Trudeau has received.
“It is an award from the government that helps a small business move the research forward from the laboratory, closer to human clinical trials,” he explained in the interview.
“Mine is a one-year project where we are going to answer a very specific question.”
Saranac Lake Mayor Clyde Rabideau applauded the announcements, which come as cutbacks in NIH spending presented fiscal uncertainty at Trudeau over the past few years.
“Hallelujah,” he said. “Hallelujah. Not every scientist in the world wants to be in a big city. This is a first step into Trudeau’s bright future and a tremendous affirmation of confidence in Trudeau’s current and future abilities.”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) said Haynes would receive the first installment of $1.89 million from the $9 million grant this year.
“Trudeau is home to some of the world’s brightest minds and cutting-edge innovation,” she said, heralding the award Thursday.
“When we invest in new groundbreaking research, we can unlock treatments to some of humanity’s oldest and deadliest diseases (therefore) improving lives and saving lives.”
Senior citizens are particularly at risk of infectious disease. Influenza alone leads to 36,000 deaths and 200,000 hospitalizations each year, 90 percent of which are older adults, according to the Gillibrand release.
Trudeau Board Chairman Benjamin Brewster acknowledged the institute’s faculty and staff “for their ongoing commitment and dedication in obtaining this $9 million grant. This award will help advance the Trudeau Institute’s discoveries in fundamental research and its impact on cures and treatments.”
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