A total of $350 million in grants over the next 5 years from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will help fund eight new Regional Centers of Excellence (RCEs) for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases Research.

The aim is to establish multidisciplinary centers for research into both bioterrorism agents and naturally occurring infectious diseases, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome, West Nile virus, and drug-resistant pathogens.

Because of the urgent demand for therapies, vaccines, diagnostics, and other tools for use against such agents, instead of the conventional funding model NIH employs—in which applications require a supporting body of preliminary data—decisions regarding these new grants rely more on the ideas and track records of applicants.

"We really wanted to encourage innovation, we wanted to encourage people to move into the field of biodefense research. We've set up a structure to do that," said senior program officer Rona Hirschberg of the National...

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