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Kleberg Foundation grants
$1.5 million for virus research


November 2004

Philip Serwer, Ph.D.
Philip Serwer, Ph.D.
Thanks to a $1.5 million grant from The Robert J., Jr. and Helen C. Kleberg Foundation, scientists at the Health Science Center are working to understand environmental viruses that infect bacteria (bacteriophages). Environmental bacteriophages have no known negative effect on people.

Bacteriophages are the most numerous organisms in the environment, often reaching levels of 10 billion or so per quart of ocean water and 100 billion or so per pound of soil. Potentially, some of the new bacteriophages will be useful against diseases such as anthrax, tuberculosis, scarlet fever, diphtheria and others, including bacterial diseases of plants.

The research team consists of Philip Serwer, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry; Stephen C. Hardies, Ph.D., associate professor of biochemistry; and Borries Demeler, Ph.D., assistant professor of biochemistry.

"Knowledge of environmental bacteriophages is potentially critical for the future, for both disease management and response to environmental stresses," Dr. Serwer said. "Knowledge of bacteriophage structure and variation also is useful for both understanding and managing the emergence of other viruses that are harmful."

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Updated 12/11/14