Released: April 24, 2013

Universities to Lead DoD's Two New Gulf War Illness Research Consortia

The Department of Defense (DoD) Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP) Gulf War Illness Research Program (GWIRP) announced that investigators at two institutions have been selected to create and manage two consortia investigating key aspects of Gulf War Illness. These two investigators, Dr. Kimberly Sullivan at the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH), and Dr. Mariana Morris at Nova Southeastern University, will each receive approximately $5 Million dollars to fund the two consortia.

Gulf War Illness (GWI) is a syndrome characterized by multiple persistent symptoms such as chronic headache, widespread pain, cognitive difficulties, debilitating fatigue, gastrointestinal problems, respiratory symptoms, and other abnormalities that are not explained by traditional medical diagnoses or posttraumatic stress disorder. This complex set of chronic symptoms may affect as many as 200,000 to 250,000 veterans of the 1990-1991 Gulf War, out of the over 700,000 deployed to that region. The GWIRP focuses its funding on innovative projects that have the potential to make a significant impact on GWI, improving the health and lives of affected service members and their families.

The two new consortia will conduct pre-clinical and clinical trials research at several leading universities, Veteran's Administration treatment facilities and civilian hospitals. Because the two consortia share several key investigators, they will be able to build synergy between the investigators, capitalizing on expected as well as unanticipated results. Similar models and methods can also be expected to uncover complementary findings from the varied perspectives of the two consortia.

"These consortia will greatly advance our understanding of the pathobiology of Gulf War Illness, discover biomarkers to more accurately diagnose it, and develop new treatments for this syndrome," said CDMRP Director COL Jeffrey Leggit, M.D. "Working collaboratively, the scientists, clinicians, and veterans at these premier organizations will be able to more effectively analyze the results of their research, the benefits of potential treatments, and bring these practices forward rapidly."

COL Leggit added that the long-term goal of each consortium is to create a lasting infrastructure of relationships among the participating organizations. This will allow the consortia to continue to operate as independent entities for continuing research and future clinical trials focused on GWI.

Kim Sullivan, PhD, Assistant Professor in BUSPH Department of Environmental Science will serve as PI and Director for one of the two new consortia. This consortium will explore a brain-immune hypothesis of Gulf War Illness, seeking to understand the pathobiological mechanisms responsible for the symptoms of Gulf War Illness in order to provide a scientific basis for identifying both diagnostic biomarkers and rational therapies.

Dr. Sullivan expressed her vision and goals for the consortium: "Our consortium will study the brain-immune cross-talk pathways that we believe are related to the pathobiology of Gulf War Illness. We have assembled a team of experts from several disciplines including cell and animal researchers as well as clinical researchers that will allow us to further understand the brain-immune interactions and their chemical messengers that we believe are related to the pathobiology of Gulf War Illness. We believe that Gulf War Illness is not only a multi-symptom illness but also a multi-system illness requiring experts from multiple disciplines from leading academic and government agencies working together to solve. We believe that we can vastly increase our understanding of the pathobiology of Gulf War Illness and develop targeted treatments for its symptoms through this highly collaborative research consortium. "

Marianna Morris, PhD, Professor and Director of Gulf War Illness Research in the Institute of Neuro-Immune Medicine at Nova Southeastern University, will serve as PI and Director for the second new consortium. This consortium will examine aberrant metabolic signaling affecting autonomic function, immune response, and endocrine function in Gulf War Illness, coordinate an understanding of abnormal signaling that can be used to drive translational models of Gulf War Illness to better facilitate effective treatments.

Also participating in the BUSPH Consortium are scientists and clinicians from the Baylor University Institute of Biomedical Studies, at Boston University's Departments of Anatomy & Neurobiology, Biostatistics, and Psychology; the Center for Disease Control's Molecular Neurotoxicology Laboratory, Drexel University College of Medicine, Nova Southeastern University Department of Clinical Immunology, University of Adelaide, University of Colorado, and the Veteran's Administration Medical Centers in Boston and Miami.

Participants in the Nova Southeastern University Consortium are scientists and clinicians from the Baylor University Institute of Biomedical Studies, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Molecular Neurotoxicology Laboratory, Nova Southeastern University Department of Clinical Immunology, Southwest Research Institute, University of Alberta Department of Medicine, Wright State University Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, and the Veteran's Administration Medical Center in Miami.

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The Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP) funds innovative bio-medical competitive awards and manages research programs in cancer, military relevant injuries and conditions, and specific disease programs for the benefit of all Americans. Recognized for its unique collaborations among scientists, clinicians, consumers, and the military, the CDMRP is a subordinate command of the United States Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, Department of Defense (