GERMANTOWN, MD – 07/17/2017 — Five-year funding supports advancement of a proven immunotherapeutic cocktail and a promising vaccine candidate against Lassa Fever, a major threat to global health
Zalgen Labs, LLC (Zalgen), a biotechnology and diagnostics company focused on high-impact, neglected infectious diseases including Lassa Fever (LF) and Ebola Viral Disease (EVD), today announced that Tulane University has been awarded two five-year awards to address Lassa Fever (LF). The grants totaling $12 million to Tulane, Zalgen, The Scripps Research Institute, the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, and the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, were awarded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health (NIAID/NIH).
The immunotherapeutic grant will be used to complete the preclinical testing of Arevirumab-3, a proprietary immunotherapeutic cocktail developed by Zalgen to combat Lassa Fever. Arevirumab has already demonstrated 100 percent efficacy in treating infected animals using two relevant model systems. Following completion of the preclinical studies, the therapeutic is expected to advance to Phase I testing.
The vaccine grant will support development and testing of a vaccine based on recently discovered key antibody targets on the surface of the Lassa virus. The vaccine candidate will incorporate proteins already in vaccine clinical trials to combat the Ebola virus, with the hope of a combination vaccine which addresses both viruses simultaneously.
Zalgen, Tulane, Scripps and UTMB are members of both the Viral Hemorrhagic Fever Consortium (VHFC) and the Viral Hemorrhagic Fever Immunotherapeutic Consortium (VIC), two renown industry and academic collaborations.
Lassa fever is a dangerous, often fatal disease endemic in regions of West Africa with children and pregnant women being the highest risk groups; initial stages of the disease are difficult to distinguish from other febrile infectious diseases. Lassa fever is characterized by bleeding and coagulation abnormalities and is spread by contact with infected rodents or human contacts. An estimated 300,000 to 500,000 people per year are infected across the endemic region, with Lassa fever deaths reaching into the tenths of thousands. Cases presenting to hospital settings capable of diagnosing the disease register between 20 to 70% lethality based on published reports.
“These awards will support the advancement of our most promising therapeutic and vaccine candidates,” said Luis M Branco, Ph.D., Managing Director and Co-Founder of Zalgen Labs. “We will continue to work with our VHFC and VIC partners here in the U.S. and in West Africa to address this global need by advancing a broad range of hemorrhagic fever technologies including these and other therapeutic and vaccine agents already in our development pipeline.”
This research is supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health under Award Numbers R01AI132223 and R01AI132244.