Government-Funded Researchers Discover Experimental Cure for Marburg Virus with Monkeys

Last week the National Institutes of Health (NIH) made a remarkable announcement about research into cures for Marburg and Ravn viruses, both relatives of the Ebola virus.

MR191-N, a monoclonal antibody derived from a human Marburg survivor, was administered by NIH-sponsored researchers to rhesus monkeys and guinea pigs and showed 100% effectiveness in curing late-stage, lethal-level infections of these viruses. According to the study two doses of the MR-191-N monoclonal antibody was able to provide 100% protection if given up to 5 days after infection. In contrast, other experimental treatments required daily doses for 7 or 14 days beginning closer to the time of infection.

Marburg and Ravn can resemble Ebola in symptoms and outcomes and medicine needs effective treatment and prophylactic measures. Hopefully these new findings prove effective in filling those voids.

To read more about this groundbreaking discovery, please click here.

Learn How Animal Research is Helping Elephants and Other Endangered Species

By now, we’re all very familiar with how translational research has helped improve the lives of both humans and animals. But did you know similar research is helping to save endangered species from extinction? It is and the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) recently covered the advancements in science that are being put forward to protect endangered animals.

A number of factors are targeting species of wild animals for extinction. Deforestation, pollution, poaching, disease, and urbanization are all taking their toll, so science is using valuable data obtained from animal studies to reverse that course. Assistive reproduction technology like in vitro fertilization and cloning opens the possibility to breeding of these animals in captivity and allowing for their release into the wild. In fact a similar project is currently underway at the National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C. with endangered cats and canids.

Researchers, like those at the Baylor College of Medicine, are studying a deadly strain of the herpes virus called EEHV which can kill young elephants in a matter of days. With the help of mice and rabbits in examining EEHV, those researchers were able to unlock the virus’ genome to help decode a possible vaccine for Asian elephants. Similar vaccine studies have also been conducted to help primates, namely chimpanzees. The deadly Ebola virus is responsible for countless human deaths, but it has also ravaged the wild chimpanzee population. In a 1994 outbreak roughly one quarter of the chimpanzee population died from the disease. Thankfully, University of Cambridge researchers were able to create a vaccine with captive chimpanzees in 2014 that has saved countless chimps from Ebola in the wild.

Animal research has and will undoubtedly continue to play a vital role in the development of lifesaving treatments for both people and animals. Thankfully it is greatly benefiting species that may otherwise disappear due to disease or interference with the delicate balance of the world’s ecosystem. To read FBR's review of these important species preserving studies, please click here.

U.S. Captive Chimpanzees Designation as Endangered Species Is Now in Effect

As of September 14, all chimpanzees are listed as endangered under U.S. law, both wild and captive, as the result of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) decision earlier this year. With the new designation, it is illegal to sell chimpanzees in the interstate pet trade or to engage in commercial transport of the animals across state lines. Permits are now required for anyone wishing to conduct biomedical research involving captive chimpanzees, and will only be issued by FWS if it will benefit the survival of the species.

The effective date of the FWS action was welcomed by Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) CEO Wayne Pacelle in several blog messages (see here and here). It was also celebrated online by other animal activists. “It's so good to hear that unnecessary biomedical research on chimpanzees is coming to an end . . .” Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) said on her Facebook page September 8 along with a picture of chimpanzees.

Meanwhile, there has been broad news coverage about the race to find an Ebola vaccine in order to save wild Great Apes, including chimpanzees, whose numbers are being decimated by the disease in Africa. The testing of vaccines in chimpanzees at the New Iberia Primate Research Center in Louisiana, and the question of whether that work would continue after September 14, was raised in a National Public Television Newshour segment. That question is still unanswered. The Atlantic Magazine raises more questions about how harmful the new restrictions on biomedical research with chimpanzees may be to wild populations in the story “Should Apes Be Saved from Ebola?

Will a Ban on Chimpanzee Research Actually Do More Harm than Good?

Time and time again, animal rights supporters have stated that a ban on animal research is the best solution for the animals.  But is it really?  Debora MacKenzie with New Scientist published an article today that answers that important question with a surprising answer.

In her story, “Ban on chimp testing puts wild ape vaccine for Ebola at risk,” MacKenzie points out the devastating toll of the Ebola virus on both humans and wild chimpanzees in Africa.  After a 17 month outbreak claiming more than 11,000 victims, promising human trials are now underway across West Africa.  But what about the apes?  They too are susceptible to Ebola and according to the University of Cambridge, one third of the world’s gorilla population has been eradicated because of the virus, leaving the western lowland gorilla critically endangered.  Thanks to research at the New Iberia Research Center in Louisiana, an edible vaccination is in development to prevent apes from spreading Ebola to each other.

This research may end because of a long campaign by animal rights supporters.  On September 15 a ban by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is set to begin on the use of captive chimpanzees in biomedical research.

To read the article and learn more about this important research and the impact of the ban, please click here.

New Ebola Vaccine Showing Promise in Monkeys

Late last week, the Los Angeles Times reported that researchers at the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) are working on a vaccine that has shown to protect macaques from infection from the Ebola virus within seven days.

Known as VSV-EBOV or rVSV-ZEBOV, the vaccine is the same one that was also reported by the LA Times to be effective in human trials in Guinea.  Andrea Marzi, coauthor of the study published in Science, told the newspaper that the next objective of the study was to observe whether the vaccine could work as a treatment for Ebola after exposure to the virus.

To learn more about the study, please read the report in Science and the LA Times’ coverage of the discovery.

Texas House of Representatives Passes Resolution Honoring UTMB’s Ebola Research

On Wednesday, May 27, the Texas House of Representatives passed H.R. 2464 to recognize the efforts of the researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) at Galveston in the hunt for an Ebola vaccine.

According to the resolution, UTMB “has made important strides toward conquering the Ebola virus” by developing a single-dose vaccine that is scheduled for human trials this summer.  Legislators acknowledge the importance of animal research by noting, “researchers conducted nonhuman primate testing in the Galveston National Laboratory, the only fully operational Biosafety Level 4 laboratory on an academic campus in the United States.”

To read this honor bestowed by the Texas House of Representatives, please click here.

NABR President’s Op-Ed on Ebola Research in Baltimore Sun

On Friday, January 30, NABR President Frankie Trull submitted an op-ed piece for the Baltimore Sun titled, “Look to animals to cure Ebola.”

In her editorial, Trull discusses the importance of nonhuman primates (NHP) in the race to find a treatment for Ebola, a virus that has claimed more than 8,600 lives and infected thousands more in West Africa.  She also discusses how animal research has been influential in contributing to advances in defeating HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, Alzheimer’s, avian flu, SARS, and other human and veterinary health challenges.

Please click here to read the op-ed.

Discussion with Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of NIH’s NIAID, Featured on CSPAN

Yesterday evening, CSPAN aired a special Q&A interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.

In this hour long discussion, Dr. Fauci gave pointers for scientists and researchers when speaking to the public and elected officials.  He also spoke about his upbringing, his medical career at the NIH, his experience with the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the recent Ebola crisis, and his relationship with several U.S. Presidents and Congress.

To view the episode, please click here.

Legal Immunity Offered to Ebola Vaccine Makers

On Tuesday, December 9, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell announced that manufacturers of Ebola vaccines would receive liability immunity in the U.S.  Part of the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act, this move is focused on facilitating the development and availability of experimental Ebola vaccines.

Secretary Burwell’s declaration provides immunity under U.S. law against legal claims related to the manufacturing, development, and distribution of three vaccines for the Ebola virus. It does not, however, provide immunity for claims brought forward in courts outside of the United States.

To learn more, please read reports by Reuters and The Hill.

President Visits NIH to Underscore Need for Funds to Fight Ebola

President Obama visited the National Institutes of Health (NIH) campus on Tuesday, December 2, using the opportunity to congratulate researchers on their recent work with a promising Ebola vaccine.

As reported by UPI, after a tour of the facilities, the president offered words of encouragement and thanks to NIH officials, while also calling on Congress to approve his Administration’s request for $6.2 billion in emergency funding to continue the fight against Ebola at home and abroad. Mr. Obama told NIH employees "The fight is not even close to being over," USA Today reports, later adding: "We cannot beat Ebola without more funding."

A full report with picture can be found at the NIH Director’s Blog.

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