Autoimmune Technologies, founded in 1995 in New Orleans, develops medical diagnostic tests, explores disease mechanisms, and investigates therapies for autoimmune diseases and other disorders. The Company is developing FF-3, which is an influenza drug with a new method of action. Blood tests to aid in the diagnosis of Lassa fever, fibromyalgia, systemic lupus erythematosus, Sjögren’s syndrome, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, Grave’s disease, breast cancer, and Gulf War Syndrome.
Kenema Government Hospital, Republic of Sierra Leone
The Kenema Government Hospital (KGH) is located 300km east of Freetown, in Kenema, Eastern Province, Sierra Leone, an area with the highest incidence of Lassa fever in the world. Despite enduring a bloody civil war for over a decade prior to its end in 2002, newfound peace has made it possible to re-establish and expand the biomedical infrastructure, and continue Lassa fever research in this region. Since 2005 Tulane University and its partners have continually build infrastructure at the KGH Lassa fever laboratory, including the recent construction of a new Lassa fever ward.
NOWDiagnostics Inc., based in Springdale, Ark., is a leader in innovative diagnostics testing. Its ADEXUSDx® product line features a lab at your fingertip, using only a single drop of blood to test for a variety of common conditions, illnesses, and diseases with results in a matter of minutes. By eliminating the need to send tests to off-site laboratories, NOWDiagnostics has the potential to decrease by days the waiting period to determine test results. The company’s Springdale, Ark., facility was officially registered with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in December 2014. NOWDiagnostics currently provides manufacturing services for Zalgen’s diagnostics products.
Tulane University (New Orleans LA) was founded in 1834. Tulane is one of the most highly regarded and selective research universities in the United States, and is a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. Under contract with the World Health Organization, Tulane implements the Mano River Union Lassa Fever Network program in the Mano River Union countries (Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea) to assist in the development of national and regional prevention and control strategies for Lassa fever and other important regional diseases. Tulane leads the Viral Hemorrhagic Fever consortium in developing a blood test and companion diagnostics for the detection of Lassa fever. Tulane’s Drs. James E. Robinson, MD and Robert F. Garry, Ph.D. led the “Roles of protective or pathogenic B cell epitopes in human Lassa fever”, and development of first-in-class immunotherapeutics for prophylaxis and post-exposure treatment of Lassa fever, respectively.
Dr. Thomas Geisbert’s biosafety level 4 (BSL4) containment laboratory at UTMB’s Galveston National Laboratory focuses on the pathogenesis of emerging and re-emerging viruses and the development of countermeasures against these viruses. The Geisbert laboratory focuses on using recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus (rVSV) as a vaccine vector for viral hemorrhagic fevers. Specific interest areas include modifying rVSV vectors for optimal safety and immunogenicity, identifying antigens needed to develop a multiagent vaccine that can protect against major groups of hemorrhagic fever viruses (Ebola, Marburg, Lassa), and determining the role of cellular and host immune responses in protection. The Geisbert laboratory currently participates in the development of immunotherapeutics for Lassa fever in collaboration with Tulane and Zalgen Labs.
The VHFC was established in 2010 following the award of a five-year, $15 million contract awarded to Tulane by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a division of the National Institute of Health (NIH). This contract was awarded to study and decode the role of B cells in the immunology of Lassa fever. The Consortium is a collaboration between Tulane, The Scripps Research Institute, Broad Institute, Harvard University, University of California at San Diego, University of Texas Medical Branch, Autoimmune Technologies, Kenema Government Hospital (Sierra Leone), Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital (Nigeria), Redeemers University (Nigeria), Zalgen Labs, and various other partners in West Africa. Together they work on evaluating antibodies from patients who have been infected by Lassa virus and have subsequently recovered, to determine if those antibodies might play a role in the development of a treatment for the illness. The team has also investigated the structure of Lassa fever virus proteins to better resolve their role in viral pathogenesis, and the genetics of humans and rodents in Lassa fever pathogenesis. The Consortium intends to expand this program to include other important infectious agents such as Ebola, Marburg and other arenaviruses that are of great concern to public health and bio-terrorism.