St. Jude influenza research earns renewed NIH funding

Researcher in red coat smiles at camera.

Richard Webby, Ph.D., of the St. Jude Department of Infectious Diseases, is principal investigator for the CEIRR program at St. Jude and director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Studies on the Ecology of Influenza in Animals and Birds.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, (NIAID), an affiliate of the National Institutes of Health, is providing an estimated $24 million to support five Centers of Excellence for Influenza Research and Response (CEIRR), including at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The federal contract (75N93021C00016) includes more than $8.9 million in first-year funding to support St. Jude research to better understand, predict, track and treat emerging flu and other viruses.

“This award provides an opportunity to build a global collaborative network and continue the long history of St. Jude supporting global public health,” said Richard Webby, Ph.D., of the St. Jude Department of Infectious Diseases. Webby is principal investigator for the CEIRR program at St. Jude and director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Studies on the Ecology of Influenza in Animals and Birds. Stacey Schultz-Cherry, Ph.D., of the Department of Infectious Diseases is co-principal investigator of CEIRR at St. Jude.

Image of Stacey Schultz-Cherry

Stacey Schultz-Cherry, Ph.D., of the Department of Infectious Diseases is co-principal investigator of CEIRR at St. Jude.

The federally supported work includes monitoring flu viruses that circulate in migratory birds and other animals along with improving pandemic preparedness. In addition to influenza research, some of the Department of Infectious Diseases’ efforts on COVID-19 and Zika virus were funded by the prior NIAID contract. Some of that work will continue under the new contract, which is expected to be supported for seven years.

“We are excited to have successfully recompeted our CEIRR program,” Schultz-Cherry said. “The new center moves us beyond understanding influenza virus emergence in birds and animals to fundamental research on defining how influenza viruses transmit at the animal-human interface, exploring immune responses in healthy and high-risk populations and critical work to identify emerging viruses with pandemic potential.”

Other St. Jude faculty involved in the CEIRR are Charles Russell, Ph.D., and Jason Rosch, Ph.D., also in the Department of Infectious Diseases; Paul Thomas, Ph.D., and Maureen McGargill, Ph.D., in the Department of Immunology; and Li Tang, Ph.D., in the Department of Biostatistics.

In addition to St. Jude, NIAID has funded CEIRR locations at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, The University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Emory University and the University of Georgia Research Foundation Inc.

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