Stifling Virulent Viruses

 

Stifling Virulent Viruses

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded Einstein researchers three grants totaling more than $12 million to protect against three deadly viruses—Ebola, Marburg and hantavirus.

A five-year, $6 million grant will support the development of broadly active monoclonal antibody (mAb) therapies against Ebola viruses. These therapies, which bind to and neutralize specific pathogens and toxins, have emerged as the most promising treatments for Ebola patients. A critical problem, however, is that three types of Ebola virus sicken and kill people, but most mAb therapies being developed are specific to just one type. Einstein researchers hope to develop one or more broadly neutralizing antibodies that work against all three types of Ebola. The co-principal investigators are Kartik Chandran, Ph.D., professor of microbiology & immunology and the Harold and Muriel Block Faculty Scholar in Virology, and Jonathan Lai, Ph.D., associate professor of biochemistry.

The second grant, for $2.9 million over four years, will further support Dr. Lai’s efforts to develop a broadly neutralizing antibody therapy for Ebola and extend that strategy to Marburg virus, a deadly virus distantly related to Ebola.

Research into how hantaviruses (deadly pathogens transmitted by rodents) enter the human body will be supported by the third NIH grant, for $3.2 million over five years. Hantaviruses cause a highly fatal cardiopulmonary syndrome in the Americas and a less fatal but more prevalent hemorrhagic fever with renal complications in Europe and Asia. Hantavirus infections are not common, but population growth and climate change are predicted to increase the size and frequency of outbreaks in coming decades. There are no approved anti-hantavirus vaccines and no drugs for treating the infections. Dr. Chandran is the principal investigator on the grant.