VBRN News & Highlights

David Allen Awarded $332,000 NIH R15 Grant

Middlebury College Associate Professor in Biology, Dr. David Allen, won an R15 AREA grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to fund his research over the next three years. 

The grant entitled “A climate and host community driven Ixodes population and infection dynamics model” totals $332,044. This was Allen’s third R15 grant submission and is a good reminder that persistence pays off when it comes to grant seeking.

As Allen describes, “The big picture focus of the work is developing, parameterizing and validating a tick population and infection dynamics model. Tick-borne diseases are a major public health problem and their incidence has increased over the past two decades. We lack successful tick-borne disease control strategies on a large-scale. This work will provide a tool to test potential strategies to find the most cost effective one in a given setting.” 

His model is unique in that it will take a realistic representation of the tick host community into account. “It will be parameterized by direct experiments in the field to measure needed inputs to the model. This will include trapping for small mammals and using game cameras to measure populations of larger mammals. We will also manipulate weather variables, which could affect tick populations. This will allow us to better understand how weather variables affect tick populations and encode them into the model.”

Allen acknowledges that the preliminary data he collected as well as participating in VBRN’s program helped strengthen his extramural proposals. ”The four years of VBRN funding provided enough preliminary data to write a strong proposal. Also, applying for VBRN funding gave me great practice for the format of an NIH grant.” 

A major focus of the R15 program, and VBRN, is the involvement of undergraduate student researchers. This grant will provide support for nine summer research assistant positions for Middlebury College students as well as offer additional support for research positions in Allen’s lab during the academic year. These opportunities give students great hands-on experience that includes everything from programming statistical models to conducting tick sampling, all while contributing to Middlebury’s culture of research.