Goal is to provide screening approach for candidates targeting viruses that pose public health and biodefense threats.

Southern Research will work with the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) at Galveston on a high-volume, high-throughput screening platform in their Galveston National Laboratory (GNL).This partnership will provide the means to perform disease screening in the highest level of a biocontainment laboratory—Biosafety Level 4 (BSL-4)—to look for new therapeutics to use against viruses that pose public health and biodefense threats.

“The GNL is uniquely situated for exactly this type of research partnership,” states James W. LeDuc, Ph.D., director of GNL. UTMB is home to one of the most extensive academic biocontainment research enterprises (BSL-2, -3, and -4 labs) in the U.S.

“Combining our strengths and the expertise of Southern Research and the Galveston National Laboratory will create a research environment that is uniquely positioned to address emerging public health threats, to better understand the pathogens involved, and to find solutions for controlling the situation,” comments Mark J. Suto, Ph.D., vp of drug discovery at Southern Research.

Southern Research operates two BSL-3 facilities. The company reportedly developed its first BSL-3 HTS platform more than seven years ago in response the SARS outbreak and the federal government’s request to increase screening and drug discovery in infectious diseases. Since then, Southern Research says, it has successfully performed multiple 100,000-plus compound screening campaigns in BSL-3 high containment.

Both Southern Research and the GNL are registered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service to conduct studies involving select agents. Southern Research scientists will extend their high containment capabilities by collaborating with GNL scientists who have expertise working with hemorrhagic fever viruses, viruses for which there are no approved small molecule drugs nor U.S. licensed vaccines.

“The demand for new therapeutics and targets against high mortality hemorrhagic fever viruses is important in areas of the world in which these pathogens are endemic and for biodefense reasons,” James D. Noah, Ph.D., manager of virology at Southern Research, points out.

“Being able to exploit high-throughput screening options against diseases like Ebola and Nipah viruses in a BSL-4 lab in an academic setting is quite a unique opportunity,” adds GNL director of high containment operations, Thomas G. Ksiazek, Ph.D.

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