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New Test Moves Forward to Detect Bioterrorism Threats

October 18, 2007

New Wave staff
newwave@tulane.edu

The initial round of clinical testing has been completed for the first diagnostic test kits that will aid in bioterrorism defense against a deadly viral disease. Tulane University researchers are collaborating in the project.

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Robert Garry, professor of microbiology and immunology at Tulane University, is principal investigator in a federally funded study to develop new tests for viral hemorrhagic fevers. (Photo by Paula Burch-Celentano)


Corgenix Medical Corp., a worldwide developer and marketer of diagnostic test kits, announced that the first test kits for detection of hemorrhagic fever have competed initial clinical testing in West Africa.

The kits, developed under a $3.8 million grant awarded by the National Institutes of Health, involve work by Corgenix in collaboration with Tulane University, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, BioFactura Inc. and Autoimmune Technologies.

“Clinical reports from the studies in Sierra Leone continue to show amazing results,” says Robert Garry, professor of microbiology and immunology at the Tulane University School of Medicine and principal investigator of the grant.

“We believe this remarkable collaboration will result in detection products that will truly have a meaningful impact on the healthcare in West Africa, but will also fill a badly needed gap in the bioterrorism defense.”

Under the grant, Tulane is leading a three-year study designed to develop better tests for viral hemorrhagic fevers, which are caused by arenaviruses known to be potential bioterrorism agents due to their high fatality rate and ease of transmission from person-to-person.

The clinical studies are being conducted at the Mano River Union Lassa Fever Network in Sierra Leone. Tulane, under contract with the World Health Organization, implements the program in the Mano River Union countries (Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea) to develop national and regional prevention and control strategies for Lassa fever and other important regional diseases.

The Tulane work includes the enhancement of laboratory diagnostic capacity, surveillance and training in laboratory diagnosis, clinical management and infection and environmental control.

Dan Bausch, director of the Tulane program in West Africa, says, “These initial clinical test results have shown that it is possible to develop a detection system that will have a meaningful impact on the practice of medicine and quality of life in sub-Saharan Africa.”

The first patent application from the collaboration has been submitted to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Darryl Sampey, chief executive officer of BioFactura, says, “This application is the first of many that we expect will come from the collaboration with Corgenix and the other parties.”

“Clinical testing on the new recombinant technology demonstrates that our collaboration is working,” says Douglass Simpson, president of Corgenix. “We have combined the skills of different parties, resulting in development of some remarkable test kits in a surprisingly short period of time. As a group we intend to expand this program to address other important infectious agents with both clinical health issues and threat of bioterrorism such as ebola.”



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