New NIH/NIAID Contract Develops Computational and Pig Models of Gastroenteric Pathogen Infections

February 25, 2018, Blacksburg, VA. The National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIH/NIAID) awarded the Nutritional Immunology and Molecular Medicine Laboratory (NIMML) a $40 million indefinite delivery/indefinite quality contract, in competitive R&D funding for a duration of 7 years. NIMML, a leading Laboratory at the Biocomplexity Institute of Virginia Tech is led by Co-Directors Drs. Josep Bassaganya-Riera and Raquel Hontecillas, who are also the principal investigators for the awarded Alternative Precilinical Models of Enteric Pathogens project (APMEP).

The APMEP is a collaborative transdisciplinary Preclinical Models of Infectious Diseases (PCMID) program with the mission of developing preclinical pig and computational models of gastroenteric pathogen infection. APMEP will develop preclinical models of Helicobacter pylori and Clostridium difficile using non-traditional animal models, in particular pigs and computational models.

The APMEP program will develop, refine and validate pig and computational models to assess efficacy and safety of candidate therapeutics, vaccines and diagnostics targeting enteric infections such as H. pylori and C. difficile and other enteric pathogens. A systematic effort aimed at establishing, refining and validating pig models of H. pylori infection and computational models of H. pylori and C. difficile infection holds enormous potential for discovering unforeseen targets and novel vaccines and therapeutics for infectious diseases.

“The award is unique in terms of providing NIMML an opportunity to collaborate with biotech and biopharma companies to develop new vaccines and therapeutics against a broad range of emerging pathogens,” said Dr. Bassaganya-Riera, the Director of NIMML, and Principal investigator of the project. “The IDIQ contract mechanism is unique in terms of NIH acting not only as a sponsor but also as a broker between NIMML and the biotech and biopharma companies that wish to leverage NIMML’s capabilities to accelerate their path to safer and more effective therapeutics, vaccines against the infectious diseases.”

APMEP is the natural continuation of the Modeling Immunity to Enteric Pathogens (MIEP), a $12 million NIAID-funded program awarded to NIMML in 2010. MIEP is another successful example of a large-scale R&D at the interface of advanced computational modeling and preclinical/clinical research. The MIEP computational models and tools are widely used to investigate mucosal immune responses to enteric pathogens.


The Nutritional Immunology and Molecular Medicine Laboratory (NIMML) tackles unsolved challenges in complex human diseases with unmet needs. We combine advanced computational technologies with preclinical and clinical experimentation to catalyze translation of scientific discoveries into commercial applications that address unmet clinical or consumer needs.