Faculty Member Receives $465,000 Grant

Meenakshi Malik, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Department of Basic and Social Sciences at Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, has been awarded a three-year research grant totaling $465,000 by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health.

The focus of Dr. Malik’s research will be Francisella tularensis, a potentially deadly bacteria that has been classified by the Centers for Disease Control as a Category A bioterrorism agent. Organisms in this class are defined as “high-priority agents that pose a risk to national security.” Other Category A agents include pathogens causing anthrax, plague, and smallpox.

Francisella is particularly dangerous because it can be easily aerosolized and survive in small droplets for weeks and months at a time. If infected, the mortality rate can be as high as 60%. Currently, there is no FDA approved vaccine for the bacteria.

“When someone is infected by a disease-causing organism, the body’s immune system instinctively responds as the first line of defense. But with Francisella, the immune response is effectively muted in the first 48-72 hours following infection. What we don’t know is how Francisella stifles the immune system or what causes the protective immune response to ‘kick in’ after this initial period. If we can find answers to these questions, our ability to develop a preventive vaccine will be greatly enhanced,” said Dr. Malik.

Dr. Malik will be using a live vaccine strain of Francisella for her research work at ACPHS. This strain is harmless for humans but serves as an excellent surrogate model for the more virulent strains of the bacteria.

The project described above is supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number 1R15AI107698-01. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
Founded in 1881, Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences is a private, independent institution committed to graduating the best health care minds in the world. In addition to its doctor of pharmacy program, ACPHS offers six bachelor’s programs and five graduate programs in the health sciences. The College’s main campus is located in Albany, New York; its satellite campus is in Colchester, Vermont. For more information, please visit www.acphs.edu.

August 13, 2013