NIAID issues $8.1 million biodefense therapeutics grant

Three organizations recently received an $8.1 million biodefense grant to collaborate on the development of new drugs to treat some of the deadliest bioterror agents.

The University of Washington, the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and the Seattle-based biotech Kineta, Inc., announced that they will work to together to advance next generation therapeutics for diseases such as Ebola, plague and Japanese encephalitis.

The grant was issued by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, part of the National Institutes of Health.

"This award enables us to push further and work with more high priority viruses," Dr. Michael Gale, Jr., a UW professor of immunology, said. "These diseases are major concerns of the United States government for their risk of sparking a pandemic and their potential use as bioterrorist weapons. By utilizing an innate immune pathway we hope to develop better drugs that won't be out-smarted by viral mutation."

Gale, the principal investigator of the grant, studies innate immunity to viral infection and the viral-host interactions that control viral replication and the progression of infections. He is also an adjunct professor of global health and micro biology and directs the UW Center for the Study of Immune Mechanisms of Virus Control.

Gale and his team plan to utilize the new funding to build on previous collaborations between UW and Kineta develop and produce novel antivirals and adjuvants.

Dr. Thomas Geisbert of the University of Texas Medical Branch and the Galveston National Lab will oversee studies conducted on the bio-safety level-4 diseases Ebola and Nipah.

"A primary mission of the Galveston National Lab is to engage our unique resources in translating research ideas into products aimed at combating emerging infectious diseases," Geisbert said. "This collaboration between Kineta, the UW and the GNL leverages expertise and resources from academia and industry to promote the advancement of countermeasures against two high-priority public health and biodefense threat agents."

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