Consortium receives grant to find Ebola treatment

A research consortium led by a scientist from The Scripps Research Institute received a five-year grant worth up to $28 million to find a treatment for Ebola virus, TSRI said on Thursday.

The National Institutes of Health awarded the grant to establish a new center for excellence to find an antibody cocktail to fight the deadly virus. Ebola virus causes a virulent disease that causes death in 25 percent to 90 percent of cases. Ebola is considered a category A bioterrorism agent by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Erica Saphire, a professor at TSRI, said the global collaboration will allow everyone in the field to get on the same page to collaborate on a set of definitive experiments. Her team will use X-ray crystallography to study the structure of antibodies and how they bind to the Ebola virus.

"The structures will provide an essential map for understanding how these antibodies work," Saphire said. "If we understood why some are more effective than others, and which groupings gave better synergy, we could put together a better cocktail."

Antibodies are thought to be the best way to treat rare and deadly viruses like Ebola because they are effective even a couple of days after exposure. As part of the program, almost all scientists in the field will contribute antibodies.

"It will not be this lab's cocktail versus that lab's cocktail, but an agreement, based upon a blinded study, that what we've put together is the best treatment possible from what is available in the world," Saphire said.

Other parts of the grant will go toward studies using electron microscopy to study Ebola antibodies and the development of antibody cocktails to battle other hemorrhagic fever viruses like Lassa, Sudan and Marburg viruses.

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