Director of Core Services Awarded International Prize from BBVA Foundation
Peter Myler wins BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award for advances against infectious diseases disproportionately affecting developing countries
March 3, 2017 (Seattle, Washington) ― The Center for Infectious Disease Research (CIDR) announced this week that Peter Myler, Professor and Director of Core Services, has won the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award, in the Development Cooperation category. The award recognizes Myler’s decades of work on genome sequencing of the parasites causing leishmaniasis and Chagas disease. This work lays the groundwork for dozens of new therapeutic targets for future drugs and vaccines and treatments to help the thousands of people affected each year by these devastating neglected diseases.
“The recognition from the BBVA Foundation brings much-deserved kudos to Peter and international attention to the type of visionary, systems-level research that happens at the Center for Infectious Disease Research. Peter’s work has led to fundamental new discoveries that present many opportunities for life-changing intervention into these neglected diseases,” says Ken Stuart, president and founder of the Center for Infectious Disease Research.
Myler led the genomic sequencing of the parasites causing leishmaniasis and Chagas disease, a milestone reached in 2005, providing a “parts list” for hundreds of other research groups around the world to identify dozens of therapeutic targets for future vaccines and treatments.
At the Center for Infectious Disease Research (CIDR), Myler holds multiple roles which includes leading a consortium that applies the latest genomic and computational biology techniques to reveal the function of parasites at the molecular level. A number of drugs now at the trial stage are a product of Myler’s contributions, although he cautions that reaching a real and lasting solution for these poverty-related diseases will be challenging, since parasites are constantly developing resistance to existing and new drugs.
Myler states that “It can be hard to raise support for research on diseases that many people have not heard of. I am fortunate to work alongside and collaborate across disciplines with a great cadre of colleagues here at CIDR and from around the world who are also dedicated to finding solutions to infectious diseases.”
The parasites Myler’s career focuses on, Leishmania and Trypanosoma, cause the deaths of more than 100,000 people each year. Cutaneous leishmaniasis, the most common form in humans, is estimated to affect half a million people per year, mainly in North Africa, the Middle East, North West India and China. Trypanosoma cruzi is responsible for Chagas disease, which affects from six to seven million people, primarily in Latin America. Another variant, Trypanosoma brucei, causes sleeping sickness in Africa.
Myler shares the Development Cooperation award with Spanish scientist Pedro Alonso, whose work focuses on reducing mortality rates of malaria through vaccines and insecticide-treated bed nets. According to the BBVA Foundation, the award recognizes the “importance of multi-pronged, complementary strategies, like those deployed by the laureates,” in addressing the complex burdens caused by infectious disease in developing countries.
“We do not believe there is a magic bullet against these conditions,” says BBVA Foundation jury chairman Joachim von Braun, professor and director of the Department for Economic and Technological Change at the Center for Development Research (ZEF) of the University of Bonn. “That is why we have chosen to recognize achievements that start from distinct angles, in this case clinical practice and research of the most basic nature.”
“The innovations behind the approaches pioneered by the two winners are poised to become critical parts of a more successful strategy to reduce infectious disease burdens in developing countries,” cites the award.
Five previous winners of the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Awards have gone on to win a Nobel Prize.
Peter Myler, Professor and Director of Core Services, CIDR
Peter J. Myler was born in Rockhampton, Australia and is professor and director of Core Services at the Center for Infectious Disease Research. In 1982, he earned a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Queensland. After conducting post-doctoral research on antigenic variation in African trypanosomes at the Issaquah Health Research Institute and Washington State University, he was one of the forces behind the development of Seattle Biomed, forerunner of today’s Center for Infectious Disease Research. In 1993, he was appointed as Assistant Professor in Pathobiology at the University of Washington, where he is currently an Affiliate Professor in the departments of Global Health and Biomedical Informatics & Medical Education, and a member of the Pathobiology and Molecular & Cellular Biology graduate programs. For the last 20 years, Myler has been at the forefront of applying genomic technologies to increase understanding of the molecular mechanisms governing gene expression during Leishmania differentiation. He is also Director and Principal Investigator of the Seattle Structural Genomics Center for Infectious Disease (SSGCID).
ABOUT THE CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH
The Center for Infectious Disease Research is the largest independent, non-profit organization in the U.S. focused solely on infectious disease research. Our research is the foundation for new drugs, vaccines and diagnostics that benefit those who need our help most: the fourteen million who will otherwise die each year from infectious diseases, including malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. Founded in 1976, the Center partners with key collaborators around the globe and strives to make discoveries that will save lives. For more information, visit www.cidresearch.org.
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