Autoimmune Technologies, founded in 1995 in New Orleans, develops medical diagnostic tests, explores disease mechanisms, and investigates therapies for autoimmune diseases and other disorders. In addition, the Company has recently begun developing anti-viral drugs which are designed to prevent viral particles from fusing with their target cells.
Many of the Company’s products are based on proprietary technologies it has licensed from Tulane University School of Medicine. Its products are based on breakthrough research discoveries, and patents covering most of the products have been awarded in the U.S. and in other countries. The Company is developing an influenza drug, blood tests to aid in the diagnosis of fibromyalgia, systemic lupus erythematosus, Sjögren’s syndrome, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, Grave’s disease, and the presence of the pro-viral DNA of an inherited retrovirus that appears to be associated with most cases of breast cancer. Work on Gulf War Syndrome and other disorders is also under way. Autoimmune Technologies currently participates in the development of a blood test for the diagnosis of Lassa fever, as part of the Viral Hemorrhagic Fever consortium. For more information on Autoimmune Technologies please visit www.autoimmune.com
Kenema Government Hospital, Republic of Sierra Leone
The Kenema Government Hospital (KGH) is located 300km east of Freetown, in Kenema, Eastern Province, Sierra Leone, an area with the highest incidence of Lassa fever in the world. This region is endemic to an array of tropical diseases including Malaria, Yellow Fever, Tuberculosis, intestinal parasites as well as Lassa fever. Despite enduring a bloody civil war for over a decade prior to its end in 2002, newfound peace has made it possible to re-establish and expand the biomedical infrastructure, and continue Lassa fever research in this region. Since 2005 Tulane University and its partners (www.vhfc.org) have continually build infrastructure at the KGH Lassa fever laboratory, including internal and external building upgrades, construction of a new office building, installation of solar panel arrays for continuous electrical power generation, acquisition of two Toyota Land Cruiser off-road vehicles, and more recently the construction of a new Lassa fever ward, with projected completion in Q3 2013.
Tulane University (New Orleans LA) was founded in 1834. Tulane is one of the most highly regarded and selective research universities in the United States, and is a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. Tulane’s schools and colleges offer undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees in the liberal arts, science and engineering, architecture, business, law, social work, medicine and public health and tropical medicine. Tulane has established a strong academic and scientific presence in virology for the clinical and bio-threat markets, including successes in securing U.S. government grants and projects. Under contract with the World Health Organization, Tulane implements the Mano River Union Lassa Fever Network program in the Mano River Union countries (Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea) to assist in the development of national and regional prevention and control strategies for Lassa fever and other important regional diseases. Tulane University leads the Viral Hemorrhagic Fever consortium in developing a blood test for the diagnosis of Lassa fever, and companion products for confirmation of antigen levels by ELISA, and circulating levels of Lassa virus-specific immunoglobulin G and M.
Tulane University’s Drs. James E. Robinson, MD (http://tulanehealthcare.com/physicians/profile/James-E-Robinson-MD) and Robert F. Garry, Ph.D. (http://tulane.edu/som/cancer/robert-garry.cfm) also lead the “Roles of protective or pathogenic B cell epitopes in human Lassa fever” (http://tulane.edu/research/discovery/story-hemorrhagic-fevers.cfm), and development of first-in-class immunotherapeutics for prophylaxis and post-exposure treatment of Lassa fever, respectively.
University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB)
Dr. Thomas Geisbert’s biosafety level 4 (BSL4) containment laboratory at UTMB’s Galveston National Laboratory focuses on the pathogenesis of emerging and re-emerging viruses and the development of countermeasures against these viruses. In addition to the Lassa virus, their research emphasizes studies on other viruses causing hemorrhagic fevers such as Ebola and Marburg. Currently, there are no vaccines against Ebola, Marburg or Lassa viruses approved for use in humans. The Geisbert laboratory focuses on using recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus (rVSV) as a vaccine vector for viral hemorrhagic fevers. They have shown that rVSV-based hemorrhagic fever viral vaccines can completely protect nonhuman primates against Ebola HF, Marburg HF, and Lassa fever. Specific interest areas include modifying rVSV vectors for optimal safety and immunogenicity, identifying antigens needed to develop a multiagent vaccine that can protect against major groups of hemorrhagic fever viruses, and determining the role of cellular and host immune responses in protection. The Geisbert laboratory currently participates in the development of first-in-class immunotherapeutics for LHF in collaboration with Tulane University and Zalgen Labs.
Viral Hemorrhagic Fever Consortium (VHFC)
The Viral Hemorrhagic Fever Consortium was established in 2010 following the award of a five-year, $15 million contract awarded to Tulane University by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a division of the National Institute of Health (NIH). This contract was awarded to study and decode the role of B cells in the immunology of Lassa fever, a disease that threatens hundreds of thousands of lives annually in West Africa and is classified as a potential bio-terrorism threat. The Consortium is a collaboration between Tulane University, The Scripps Research Institute, Broad Institute, Harvard University, University of California at San Diego, University of Texas Medical Branch, Autoimmune Technologies, Corgenix Medical Corporation, Vybion, Kenema Government Hospital (Sierra Leone), Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital (Nigeria) and various other partners in West Africa. Together they work on evaluating antibodies from patients who have been infected by Lassa virus and have subsequently recovered, to determine if those antibodies might play a role in the development of a treatment for the illness. In addition, the team will investigate the structure of Lassa fever virus proteins to better resolve their role in viral pathogenesis. The Consortium intends to expand this program to include other important infectious agents such as Ebola, Marburg and other arenaviruses that are of great concern to public health and bio-terrorism. For more information on the VHFC please visit www.vhfc.org
NOWDiagnostics Inc., based in Springdale, Ark., is a leader in innovative diagnostics testing. Its ADEXUSDx® product line features a lab at your fingertip, using only a single drop of blood to test for a variety of common conditions, illnesses, and diseases with results in a matter of minutes. By eliminating the need to send tests to off-site laboratories, NOWDiagnostics has the potential to decrease by days the waiting period to determine test results. The company’s Springdale, Ark., facility was officially registered with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in December 2014. For more information about NOWDiagnostics, visit ww.nowdx.com