Two federal programs have recently announced substantial research awards to University System of Maryland scientists for wide-ranging studies on the Pfiesteria-complex of organisms. The two federal programs are ECOHAB (Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms) and NIEHS (National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences). ECOHAB is a consortium of six federal agencies. Led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, it includes the National Science Foundation, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Office of Naval Research, the Department of Agriculture and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. NIEHS is part of the National Institutes of Health.
University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES)
A five-year, $4.5 million grant will support research on Pfiesteria-related organisms in terms of their physical environment, the types of nutrients which may lead to their growth, and their interaction with other organisms. Maryland's Department of the Environment, is providing $400,000 and the University of Delaware with the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays is adding $50,000 in matching funds for instrumentation. First year funding from ECOHAB for the portion of the research conducted by UMCES totals $613,899 with the remainder provided based on availability of federal funds and scientific progress.
"We will be studying the nontoxic as well as the toxic stages of the organism in both heavily impacted areas and minimally impacted areas," says principal investigator Patricia Glibert of the UMCES Horn Point Laboratory. As part of the UMCES research, scientists from Maryland, Delaware, North Carolina and South Carolina will collect and compare field data from areas where Pfiesteria blooms have occurred. Researchers include Diane Stoecker, Michael Roman, Bill Boicourt, Larry Sanford, Reginal Harrell, Raleigh Hood, Xinsheng Zhang and Rodger Harvey of UMCES; JoAnn Burkholder, North Carolina State University; Alan Lewitus, University of South Carolina; Craig Cary and David Hutchins, University of Delaware.
University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute,
Funding of $1 million for the first two years of a five-year grant will enable COMB to accelerate its study of the molecular biology of Pfiesteria and related microorganisms. The Maryland Department of the Environment will provide matching funds of $295,000. COMB's research will focus on answering fundamental questions regarding identification of the Pfiesteria-complex of dinoflagellates, the role of bacterial interactions, and factors leading to toxin production.
Center of Marine Biotechnology (COMB)
Of central importance is COMB's Dinoflagellate Culture Core Facility, which will maintain the microorganisms and provide cells to researchers in individual COMB projects and to scientists nationwide in the ECOHAB community. Molecular probes to be developed will have the potential to detect the presence of Pfiesteria-complex dinoflagellates, distinguish between the numerous species, and determine both in the wild and in the laboratory whether their toxins are present. The COMB team includes Principal Investigator and COMB director Yonathan Zohar and Gerardo Vasta, Robert Belas and Allen Place.
University of Maryland School of Medicine and the Institute of Human Virology
Funding of $710,00 will enable researchers to develop rapid and specific DNA analysis tests to detect Pfiesteria-like organisms in estuarine waters. The Maryland Department of the Environment will match a portion of federal funds with a $52,500 contribution. The studies will adapt tools of molecular virology for measuring the numbers of organisms in affected waterways and to overcome some of the problems in getting rapid and definitive identification of Pfiesteria-related dinoflagellates. Once the methods for detecting genetic sequences from these organisms are perfected, the researchers will adapt the DNA assays for field use. David Oldach, of the School of Medicine, is co-Principal Investigator with Park Rublee of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and Kjetill Jakobsen from the University of Oslo. Other team members includes JoAnn Burkholder and Howard Glasgow, NC State University; Charles Delwiche, UM College Park, Richard Lacouture, Academy of Natural Sciences and M. Allen Northrup, Cepheid, Inc
The University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute's
A five-year, $6.3 million grant will support a group of projects at COMB on the biology of Pfiesteria, e.g., life cycle, mechanisms of toxin production, and medical studies at SOM on neuropsychology and neurotoxicology. COMB research is expected to provide methods for determining the relationships between toxins and specific impairments in human learning and memory. SOM studies will focus on defining the nature and extent of learning and memory impairments in affected persons, and will concentrate on examining responses to toxin preparations in tissue culture and animal models. Principal investigators are Yonathan Zohar (COMB) and J. Glenn Morris (SOM). Researchers at COMB include Gerardo Vasta, Robert Belas and Allen Place; at SOM, Lynn Grattan and Christopher Bever (neurocognitive studies), Ellen Silbergeld, Amira Eldefrawi, Edson Albuquerque (neurotoxicologic studies) and at Johns Hopkins, Patricia Charache.
Center of Marine Biotechnology (COMB),
the University of Maryland School of Medicine (SOM) and
the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine