Einstein researchers receive three NIH grants to protect against deadly viruses

The NIH has awarded Einstein researchers three grants totaling more than $12 million to protect against three deadly viruses--Ebola, Marburg and hantavirus. Research collaborations between 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, have led to novel approaches for developing vaccines and treatments.

A five-year, $6 million grant will support the development of broadly active monoclonal antibody therapies (mAbs) against Ebola viruses. mAbs, 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 for just one type. Einstein researchers hope to develop one or more broadly neutralizing antibodies that work against all three types of Ebola. Drs. Chandran and Lai are co-principal investigators on the project.

The second NIH 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 filovirus that is distantly related to Ebola. Dr. Lai will also explore whether this approach works against disease-causing viruses that are not filoviruses.

The third NIH grant, for $3.2 million over five years, will support research into how hantaviruses--deadly pathogens transmitted by rodents--enter the human body. Hantaviruses cause different syndromes in different parts of the world: 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 human population growth and climate change are predicted to increase the size and frequency of outbreaks in coming decades. There no approved anti-hantavirus vaccines and no drugs for treating infections. Dr. Chandran is the principal investigator on the grant.

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