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Part of Hutchins $10M goes to Columbia CFS infectious causes study

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Recently established by a donation of more than $10 million from the Hutchins Family Foundation, the privately funded Chronic Fatigue Initiative (CFInitiative.org) is wasting no time bringing together experts from the world’s leading medical research institutions – including Columbia, Harvard, Stanford and Duke Universities – to study the pathogenesis of chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS).

The Initiative’s initial phase of funding includes:

• Establishment at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center of the Hutchins Family Fellowship in Infectious Disease, under the direction of Scott Hammer, MD, professor of epidemiology and chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia Medical Center.

• And, as announced on Sep 27, a “substantial grant” that establishes a CFS Pathogen Discovery and Pathogenesis Program at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health.

The pathogenesis program will leverage the expertise of Columbia’s Center for Infection and Immunity, and will be led by CII director Ian Lipkin, MD, and CII translational research director Mady Hornig, MD.

“Dr. Hornig was the prime mover in designing the research plan and will be shepherding the CFI’s research at the Center for Infection and Immunity,” says Dr. Lipkin.

Specifically, Dr. Hornig will direct research on CFS biomarkers and pathogen discovery, with a focus on characterizing the causes of this enigmatic disorder.

• Scientists will examine samples from 200 patients and controls using state-of-the-art molecular techniques pioneered at CII. Patients will be recruited across the country from five clinical sites that specialize in chronic fatigue syndrome.

• During the first part of the project, they will screen for already known pathogens thought to be associated with the disease.

• Then they will use unbiased genetic sequencing to help them identify any novel pathogens.

• CII scientists will also look at patients’ host response profiles – the immune molecule and antibody signatures in their peripheral blood samples. This will enable researchers to get a comprehensive picture of what is happening in individual patients in relation to pathogens to which they may have been exposed and could lead to the identification of biomarkers for CFS.

Drs. Lipkin and Hornig will collaborate with the Hutchins Family Fellowship program, working with Dr. Hammer and Dr. Claire Gordon, the first Hutchins Family Fellow for Infectious Disease.

“This is a truly exciting opportunity to understand the causes of this often neglected disorder,” says Dr. Hornig. “We hope our findings will lead to better diagnoses and the development of an effective treatment.”

Source: Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health news releae, Sep 27, 2011

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