New screening platform can test 10,000 biological agents per day

Researchers at the Southern Research Institute (SRI) and the Galveston National Laboratory (GNL) recently developed a semi-autonomous, high-throughput screening platform that can test 10,000 compounds per day in biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) biocontainment conditions.

The researchers published a paper on the platform called, "A BSL-4 High-Throughput Screen Identifies Sulfonamide Inhibitors of Nipah Virus" in the April 2014 issue of ASSAY and Drug Development Technologies (ADDT). James Noah, one of the lead researchers at SRI, said the platform could be used to identify compounds to protect against highly pathogenic agents like Nipah virus.

Nipah virus is a BSL-4 pathogen that causes severe respiratory illness and encephalitis in humans. Outbreaks in the past decade in India and Bangladesh resulted in fatality rates higher than 65 percent. The virus is considered a significant public health concern and a serious bioterrorism threat.

"We are pleased to have our work, and that of our colleagues at GNL recognized by ADDT," Noah said. "To our knowledge, this is the first instance in which an HTS platform was implemented in a BSL-4 environment. Building on our earlier experience, we believe this platform may contribute to the successful identification of compounds with antiviral activity as the first step in the development of therapeutics against these highly pathogenic agents."

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases lists Nipah virus as a category C priority pathogen.