Category: Featured

You Can’t Bomb Ebola’: How Nations Should Respond To the Next Pandemic

May 5th, 2017 in Featured, In The News

Original article in Time Health Magazine – Alexandra Sifferlin  May 03, 2017

The Ebola outbreak of 2014 infected more than 28,000 people in West Africa and killed more than 11,000. It also exposed gaps in the world’s ability to respond to epidemics of infectious diseases.

Are we more prepared now to respond to future emerging disease outbreaks? Experts say countries are better positioned, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement. “[Ours] is not a culture of outbreak prevention,” said Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, medical director of the Special Pathogen Unit at the Boston University School of Medicine, during a panel at Fortune’s Brainstorm Health Conference on Wednesday. Bhadelia worked as an Ebola treatment unit clinician on four different trips to West Africa during the outbreak. “We chase one pathogen after another.”

For more, visit Time Health  http://time.com/4765674/ebola-pandemic-prevention/

New Report Charts Ways to Expedite Research During Epidemics

April 13th, 2017 in Featured, In The News

Original article from: Scientific American posted on April 12, 2017. by Helen Branswell

When the largest Ebola outbreak in history exploded across West Africa in 2014, public health authorities raced to test experimental vaccines and drugs they hoped would quell the massive epidemic.

But the trials process was too slow, and in the end, a massive influx of outside medical help and strict enforcement of measures to prevent ongoing infection were what brought the outbreak under control.

Now, a new report commissioned by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine attempts to chart a road map for expedited clinical trials for future epidemics, hoping to ensure that the lessons from the devastating Ebola outbreak are not forgotten.

“There will be one. The more we can start now, the better we’ll be,” said Dr. Gerald Keusch, co-chairman of the committee that produced the report.

The report, “Integrating Clinical Research into Epidemic Response: The Ebola Experience,” was released Wednesday.

A number of the recommendations in the nearly 300-page report focus on trying to build up health systems in low-income countries, so that they are better able to spot, respond to, and contribute to research during future disease outbreaks.

Read Full Article on Scientific American

NEIDL Researchers Present Case for Next-Level Research

March 7th, 2017 in Events, Featured, In The News

Original article from: BU Today posted on March 7, 2017. by Art Jahnke

Infectious disease experts and administrators from Boston University told the Boston Biosafety Committee (BBC) on Monday night that the ability to conduct research at Biosafety Level 4 (BSL-4) at BU’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory (NEIDL) would speed the development of treatments and vaccines for life-threatening diseases and further the development of Boston as the country’s most vital hub of biomedical research. The BBC, made up of biosafety experts and community residents, is an advisory group to the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC), whose approval of BSL-4 research, currently sought by the NEIDL, is the final regulatory step required for the laboratory to conduct such research. In December, after more than two years of intensive review, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approved BSL-4 research at the NEIDL, which has been conducting research at BSL-2 and BSL-3.

Monday night’s public meeting of the BBC, which was devoted to discussion of NEIDL’s request for permission to conduct BSL-4 research, opened with a lengthy review of training practices and other safety precautions that have been established at the laboratory. Situated on BU’s Medical Campus in the South End, the NEIDL has been the focus of years of litigation and controversy, with opponents arguing that its urban location introduces a large population to unnecessary risk, and proponents contending that the Medical Campus site is essential to attract top research talent and foster the necessary interdisciplinary research collaboration. Completed in 2008, the lab meets the most stringent safety specifications set by the United States government for conducting infectious disease research. There are currently 11 BSL-4 labs across North America—10 in the United States and one in Winnipeg, Canada.

Read Full Article on BU Today

Boston Public Health Commission to Consider NEIDL Research Request Tonight

March 6th, 2017 in Events, Featured, In The News, Lab Updates

Original article from: BU Today posted on March 6, 2017. by Sara Rimer

The Boston Public Health Commission will hold a public meeting this evening, Monday, March 6, to discuss a request by Boston University’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL) for permission to conduct research at Biosafety Level 4 (BSL-4). The meeting will be held in the Hayes Conference Room on the second floor of 1010 Massachusetts Avenue from 5 to 7:30 p.m.

After more than two years of intensive review, BSL-4 research at the NEIDL was approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in December, bringing NEIDL scientists closer to finding new ways to prevent and treat Ebola and other dangerous pathogens. The lab, on BU’s Medical Campus in the South End, was built according to the most stringent safety specifications set by the US government for conducting infectious disease research. It still needs approval from the Boston Public Health Commission before scientists can conduct research at BSL-4.

The NEIDL, which has been conducting research at BSL-2 and BSL-3, is part of a national network of secure facilities that study emerging infectious diseases and develop diagnostic tests, treatments, and vaccines to promote public health. BSL-4 research studies infectious diseases that are usually life-threatening and that have no available vaccine or therapy. There are 11 BSL-4 labs across North America—10 in the United States, and one in Winnipeg, Canada.

Read Full Article on BU Today

Blood Test May Predict Who Lives or Dies with Ebola

January 23rd, 2017 in Featured, In The News

Original article from: BU Today posted on January 23, 2017. by Barbara Moran

In 2014, Ebola exploded across western Africa. It was the worst outbreak of the virus in recorded history, killing more than 11,000 people before it sputtered out in early 2016. In the Republic of Guinea, the epicenter of the epidemic, around 60 percent of people infected with Ebola died.

While the outbreak taught physicians and scientists much about Ebola, many questions remain. Foremost among them: why do some people survive an infection, while others die? Researchers know that some obvious factors, like supportive hospital care, improve prognosis. They also know that high viral load—the amount of virus present in the body—is frequently associated with death. But these factors alone didn’t account for all those who survived or succumbed to the disease, and they didn’t always predict who would live or die.

Now, a team of researchers led by Boston University, the University of Liverpool, Public Health England, and other international agencies has discovered a biomarker that can help predict the progression of the disease: a handful of genes that are overactivated in patients who succumb to the disease. These genes indicate an overly aggressive primary immune response, which can damage organs—particularly the liver—and paradoxically, may hamper a more targeted immune response. The research, funded by the United Kingdom’s National Institute for Health Research and the US Food and Drug Administration, and published on January 19, 2017, in the journal Genome Biology, suggests a new type of blood test that while still in the preliminary stages of development, might be useful in future outbreaks to steer patients to the best treatment.

“The study suggests that something about the way people respond to infection affects their chance of survival,” says John Connor, a School of Medicine associate professor of microbiology at BU’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories and corresponding author on the study. “We can get a sense of who will survive and who won’t, and we can get it earlier,” he adds. “This is the first study of this type ever done on this scale.”

Read Full Article on BU Today

Bring on the Ebola Research

December 30th, 2016 in Featured, In The News, Lab Updates

Original article from: Boston Globe posted on December 29, 2016. by Dante Ramos

For humanity to conquer Ebola and other deadly diseases, we need the right combination of scientists to study them from every possible angle. Where’s that more likely to happen — in a state-of-the-art biolab amid the world’s deepest pool of scientific and medical brainpower, or in a hypothetical facility on the dark side of the moon, where no scientist will ever want to work?

The answer is obvious. Which is why Boston University’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories, located on Albany Street in Boston’s dense South End, should be allowed to host research even on so-called Biosafety Level 4 germs — microbes that cause life-threatening diseases for which there is no vaccine or treatment. Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made just that judgment, giving the biolab a crucial approval.

Built with a $200 million federal grant awarded way back in 2003, the biolab building — which I’ve toured — is impressive, highly secure, and woefully underused. The decade-and-a-half-long battle over Level 4 research has hampered its ability to attract researchers.

The Boston Public Health Commission, in whose hands the facility’s future now lies, shouldn’t let misunderstandings about how scientists operate, and about how to keep people safest from dangerous germs, get in the way of life-saving research.

Read Full Article in Boston Globe

BU Biolab Gets Approval for Research on Deadliest Pathogens

December 27th, 2016 in Featured, In The News, Lab Updates

Original article from: Boston Globe posted on December 24, 2016. by Evan Allen & Felicia Gans

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has approved a Biosafety Level 4 laboratory to operate on Boston University’s medical campus in the South End, according to the Boston Public Health Commission.

Scientists in the National Emerging Infectious Diseases lab would have clearance to study the world’s deadliest pathogens, such as Ebola. The biolab still needs to win approval from the city’s health commission before that research can begin.

“It’s an important step; we’re excited that they have recognized the quality of our people and facilities, but we still need to wait on the rest of the process,” said Ronald B. Corley, the lab’s director.

The spread of Ebola and, more recently, the Zika virus, has shown how quickly pathogens can travel around the world, Corley said — and there are some we have not even discovered.

“This isn’t a closed circle. There are many pathogens out there that, as we encroach on the wilderness areas and forests, as we change the environment, we’re going to run into more and more,” Corley said. “Every little bit we learn helps us solve the problems for the next one.”

The Boston Public Health Commission said in a statement that it has been reviewing safety plans and procedures at the lab since 2013.

The commission “will continue to carry out a rigorous review process of National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories’ application, including a review of safety and security protocols and an ongoing monitoring and inspection program to ensure that the Level 4 laboratory can operate safely prior to issuing any permits,” the commission said.

 

Read Full Article in Boston Globe

Emergency Response Exercise to be Conducted November 10, 2016

November 8th, 2016 in Events, Featured, Lab Updates, Press Releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: NOVEMBER 10, 2016

Contact: Colin Riley (617) 353-5386, criley@bu.edu

 (Boston) – On Thursday, November 10, between 9 a.m.- noon Boston University (BU) will conduct an emergency response exercise at the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL) located at 620 Albany Street. This simulation is part of the NEIDL’s ongoing safety and training program for laboratory personnel and internal and external response officials.

This drill will simulate a response to an inventory discrepancy involving a select agent pathogen. The participants in this exercise include NEIDL operations staff and researchers, BU Public Safety, Boston Police Department, and the Boston Public Health Commission.

While the simulation should have no affect or impact on neighborhood traffic, there may be a number of local emergency response vehicles parked at or around the NEIDL’s perimeter.

Following this exercise, all participants will convene to review and critique the response in order to continuously improve response and training.

Please note that BSL-4 research is not being conducted at the NEIDL now and will not commence until the completion of further regulatory approvals.

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The 9 Deadliest Viruses on Earth

November 4th, 2016 in Featured, In The News

Original article from: Live Science posted on October 27, 2016. by Anne Harding

Humans have been battling viruses since before our species had even evolved into its modern form. For some viral diseases, vaccines and antiviral drugs have allowed us to keep infections from spreading widely, and have helped sick people recover. For one disease — smallpox — we’ve been able to eradicate it, ridding the world of new cases.

But as the Ebola outbreak now devastating West Africa demonstrates, we’re a long way from winning the fight against viruses.

The strain that is driving the current epidemic, Ebola Zaire, kills up to 90 percent of the people it infects, making it the most lethal member of the Ebola family. “It couldn’t be worse,” said Elke Muhlberger, an Ebola virus expert and associate professor of microbiology at Boston University.

But there are other viruses out there that are equally deadly, and some that are even deadlier. Here are the nine worst killers, based on the likelihood that a person will die if they are infected with one of them, the sheer numbers of people they have killed, and whether they represent a growing threat.

Read Full Article in Live Science

A New Lead on Treatment for Ebola

October 11th, 2016 in Featured, In The News, Lab Updates

Original article from: BU Research posted on September 30, 2016. by Elizabeth Dougherty

In the book The Hot Zone, author Richard Preston called viruses like Ebola “molecular sharks”—mindless attackers made of almost nothing. Ebola virus, which causes often-fatal hemorrhagic fevers, carries just seven genes, none of which can do much without first stealing the smarts inside a host cell.

Virologists in the lab of John Connor have recently discovered one previously unknown way that Ebola hijacks a cell’s machinery and uses it to replicate and spread. When the virus invades, it takes over a pathway that normally helps the host cell turn its own genes into proteins. The virus uses this pathway—in particular, an activated form of a protein called eIF5A—to turn its own viral genes into proteins. When those viral proteins accumulate, the virus is able to unleash the rest of its deadly viral proteins.

By figuring out how the virus hijacks a host cell, Connor and his team have found a new lead for the treatment of Ebola infections, though more research is required to pinpoint a treatment strategy. “My lab tries to shine light on underlying mechanisms,” says Connor, associate professor of microbiology at Boston University’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL). “Once you understand the different parts of a cell the virus is using, you can come up with ways to stop it.”

The findings were published in the American Society for Microbiology’s mBio journal in July 2016. Funders of the research include the National Institutes of Health and the US Department of Health and Human Services.

 

Read Full Article on BU Research