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Professor Fabio Re Awarded $2.6 Million to Investigate Severe Lung Infections

Rosalind Franklin University investigator Fabio Re, PhD, wants to prevent a lethal inflammatory response to infection. A professor of microbiology and immunology in the Center for Cancer Cell Biology, Immunology and Infection, he was recently awarded a five-year, $2.6 million grant from the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to study the role of the Caspase-11 inflammasome in lung bacterial infections.

“Bacterial and viral infections simultaneously activate several innate immune responses including Caspase-11 inflammasome, a pathway that controls production of important pro-inflammatory mediators,” Dr. Re said. “These factors protect us from infection but their excessive and uncontrolled production become deleterious including during sepsis and severe COVID-19.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Infection estimate that each year 1.7 million adults in the U.S. develop sepsis, and nearly 270,000 die as a result. Sepsis is an overwhelming or impaired whole-body immune response to an infection or injury that occurs unpredictably and can progress rapidly, with the patient spiraling towards septic shock and multiple organ failure.

The new NIH award builds upon Dr. Re's previous two-year $429,000 NIAID grant in 2020 to investigate the role of the inflammasome using an animal model of COVID-19. Lung infection with the animal model of the virus results in a lethal disease that resembles COVID-19 and is primarily due to excessive inflammation, similar to the human disease.

“Our studies could potentially facilitate development of novel therapeutic agents that encourage the Caspase-11-dependent protective responses while inhibiting the harmful ones,” said Dr. Re. “They will increase our understanding of the mechanisms that regulate inflammation not only during infection but also in a number of pathologies caused by sterile inflammation.”

RFU is home to 12 centers working to advance discovery science and innovation, with the goal of improving health and well-being. 

Ronald Kaplan, PhD, RFU executive vice president for research, commended Dr. Re’s investigation: “Dr. Re’s research in the field of severe lung infections caused by viruses and bacteria will hopefully translate into new therapeutic approaches to life-threatening illnesses.”

Posted June 28, 2023
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