Category: Featured

Diagnosing Ebola before Symptoms Arrive

March 29th, 2018 in Featured, In The News

In 2014, an Ebola epidemic began to ravage West Africa. It became the largest Ebola outbreak in history, lasting two years and infecting an estimated 28,000 people—most in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. Ultimately, it took more than 11,000 lives.

Many of those lives might have been saved if health-care workers could have treated and quarantined infected people during the early stages of the disease. Currently, however, there is no way to diagnose Ebola until symptoms arrive—and the fever, severe headache, and muscle pain that mark Ebola can strike victims anytime between 2 and 21 days after exposure. “Right now, we wait for diagnosis until the virus spills out of primary infection sites into the blood,” says Emily Speranza (GRS’18). “At that point, it’s already tremendously far along.”

Speranza may have found a better way. Working with colleagues at BU’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL), as well as the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), Speranza, who recently earned a PhD in the interdisciplinary bioinformatics program, studied data from 12 monkeys exposed to Ebola virus and discovered a common pattern of immune response among the ones that got sick. This response occurred four days before the onset of fever—the first observable symptom of infection. The work, funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and others and published on March 28, 2018, in the journal Science Translational Medicine, suggests a possible biomarker for early diagnosis of the disease.

“Four days! Think about it,” says paper senior author John Connor, a School of Medicine associate professor of microbiology and a NEIDL researcher. “If I could tell you four days before you were going to be sick, that would be fantastic.”

Click to read more in BU Today

BU Study Raises Prospect of Earlier Diagnosis of Deadly Ebola Virus

March 28th, 2018 in Featured, In The News, Lab Updates

Researchers at Boston University say they have detected signs that the deadly Ebola virus causes an immune response in monkeys four days before they begin exhibiting symptoms.

More research is needed, but the discovery raises the prospect of diagnosing the disease earlier in humans, allowing earlier treatment to help patients and earlier quarantine to control breakouts, the university said in a statement Wednesday.

“Right now, we wait for diagnosis until the virus spills out of primary infection sites into the blood,” says Emily Speranza, who recently received her doctorate from Boston University’s bioinformatics program and is one of the first authors on the paper. “At that point, it’s already tremendously far along.”

“If you can start treating someone very, very early on after exposure, they’re less likely to develop really severe disease,” Speranza said in the statement. “And if you can identify people who are sick before they even show symptoms, you can better quarantine and actually control outbreaks.”

The research was led by John Connor, a professor at Boston University School of Medicine and a researcher at the university’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories, a biolab built on the BU medical campus in the South End.

Click to read more in Boston Globe

BU Biolab Prepares To Study Deadly Viruses After Decade Of Controversy

January 10th, 2018 in Featured, In The News, Lab Updates

Original article from CBS Boston by January 9, 2018

BOSTON (CBS) – They will study some of the most deadly viruses in the world and the lab is in a densely populated Boston neighborhood.

After more than a decade of controversy, Boston University’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory (NEIDL) has received its final approval, and could begin studying Ebola and other viruses in a few months. WBZ-TV got an inside look at what they hope to accomplish, and how they plan to keep themselves, and the community safe.

The Bio Safety Level 4 lab is located in the South End, on Albany Street. It’s here that Boston University scientists hope to break the code of some of the world’s deadliest pathogens, like Ebola, the virus that killed thousands of people in Africa just a few years ago. In fact, Ebola is the first target of the NEIDL, one of only 10 of these labs in the United States.

“Trying to understand where these pathogens are, and being able to detect them early on would actually go a long way in stopping these types of terrible outbreaks, says Ron Corley, Ph.D. the director of the lab.

Click to read more at CBS Boston

Boston University Gears Up To Research Ebola (Video)

January 5th, 2018 in Featured, In The News, Video

Original article from: WGBH News posted on January 4, 2018. by Cristina Quinn

After years of neighborhood battles, Boston University has won approval to conduct biosafety level 4 research. In layman’s terms, that means they can now study the world’s deadliest pathogens at the university’s National Emerging Infectious Disease Lab on the medical school’s South End campus.

Rows of blue and white protective lab suits hang in the changing room of a simulation of Boston University’s biosafety level 4 lab, also known as BSL-4. The real lab is in an inner sanctum of the building with 12-inch thick walls and 14-inch heavily fortified concrete flooring designed to withstand an earthquake.

Coiled air hoses hang from the ceiling. Microbiologist Elke Muhlberger grabs one to demonstrate how it works. Pointing to a socket on the waist of the suit, she takes the end of the hose and snaps it in. Air immediately starts hissing into the suit.

Read Article and Watch Video on WGBH News

BU Lab will Begin Studying Deadly Viruses

December 12th, 2017 in Featured, In The News, Lab Updates

Original article from The Boston Globe by December 12th, 2017

Boston University’s high-security laboratory can begin studying Ebola, Zika, and other deadly pathogens, after the city’s public health commission gave final approval last week for the work to proceed. The move ended a decade and a half of controversy during which South End and Roxbury residents and others raised concerns about an accident or a terrorist attack.

For years, the 192,000-square-foot high-security biolab near Boston Medical Center was tied up by legal challenges and regulatory reviews. Built with $200 million in federal money, the building has been mostly empty since its completion in 2008.

Here is a look back at some key events during the lab’s history:

Click to read more in The Boston Globe

The BU Biolab Will Work With the Most Dangerous Microbes on Earth, Finally

December 8th, 2017 in Featured, In The News, Lab Updates

Original article from Boston Magazine by December 7th, 2017

Sure, there’s plenty of good reason to be cautious about having a bevy of deadly pathogens in your backyard. And when it comes to Boston University’s plans to study the world’s most dangerous bugs in the South End—microbes like Ebola and the Marburg virus—Boston has been abundantly cautious. It’s been more than a decade now since the idea was first proposed, but now it looks like the necessary, if scary, work of the BU Biolab is finally cleared to begin.

The Boston Public Health Commission this week decided after 12 years of analysis to let researchers begin tinkering with the ultra-dangerous microbes at a research facility at Boston Medical Center, which has foot-thick walls, a state-of-the-art filtration system, is earthquake-proof, and has a safety protocol that is, well, intense. They plan to begin in 2018 looking for cures to incurable diseases, which if successful could help stop or prevent the next outbreak.

It’s a big deal.

Click to read more in Boston Magazine

NEIDL BSL-4 Lab Gets Green Light

December 7th, 2017 in Featured, In The News, Lab Updates

Original article from BU Today by December 6th, 2017

After years of scrutiny by regulatory agencies and city, state, and federal officials, Boston University’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL) has received final approval from the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) to conduct research at Biosafety Level 4 (BSL-4).

“We’re extraordinarily pleased,” says NEIDL Director Ronald B. Corley, a School of Medicine professor of microbiology. The BSL-4 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 infectious disease research. Corley says the BPHC permission is “the last hurdle for our scientists being able to work with approved BSL-4 pathogens—specifically, Ebola and Marburg.” Ebola and Marburg are both rare but life-threatening viruses that have become global public health threats. There is no available FDA-approved vaccine or therapy for Ebola, which killed and sickened tens of thousands of people in West Africa in a 2014–2016 outbreak, or for Marburg. Ebola cases traveled to the United States and Europe during the 2014 outbreak.

“As we have seen over the past several years, we are all vulnerable to potentially devastating infectious diseases that may have originated halfway across the globe,” says Gloria Waters, BU vice president and associate provost for research. “With the opening of the NEIDL’s BSL-4 lab, BU is poised to establish itself as a national leader in fighting microbial systems and infectious diseases. The work that will be carried out here will bring benefit and relief in the form of vaccines, treatments, and cures to people in Boston, the United States, and around the world.”

“We’re extraordinarily pleased,” says NEIDL Director Ronald B. Corley. The BPHC permission is “the last hurdle for our scientists being able to work with approved BSL-4 pathogens—specifically, Ebola and Marburg.” Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

The NEIDL, where multidisciplinary teams of microbiologists, virologists, engineers, and other scientists have been doing research at BSL-2 for five years and at BSL-3 since January 2014, 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. There are 11 BSL-4 labs across North America—10 in the United States and one in Winnipeg, Canada. The NEIDL BSL-4 lab is one of only two labs sited within universities in the United States—the other one is at Galveston National Laboratory, at the University of Texas Medical Branch—and Corley says the NEIDL lab is the only one “in the middle of a very research-intensive university like BU” and in “a mecca for biomedical research like the Boston area.”

One important benefit of the location, says Corley, is that NEIDL researchers can draw on the expertise of multidisciplinary teams of scientists—engineers, chemists, biologists who work on regenerative medicine—across BU, and at other institutions in Boston.

Last December, after more than three years of review, BSL-4 research at the NEIDL was approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). All BSL-4 research conducted at the NEIDL must also be approved on a case-by-case basis by BU’s Institutional Biosafety Committee, which was created under National Institutes of Health guidelines to review research involving biohazardous materials.

 

Click to read more in BU Today

BU Infectious Disease Lab gets Clearance to Work with Ebola, Marburg Viruses

December 7th, 2017 in Featured, In The News, Lab Updates

Original article from Boston Business Journal by December 7th, 2017

Boston University researchers will now be allowed to work with pathogens as viral as Ebola, following the upgrade of one of its labs being upgraded to a Biosafety Level 4 facility by the Boston Public Health Commission.

The upgrade to Level 4 for Boston University’s National Emerging Infectious Disease Laboratories is years in the making, the university said, and comes after scrutiny by state, city and federal officials, including approval in December from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The approval makes the lab the 10th Biosafety Level 4 lab in the country, and only one of two sited on a university campus. The lab, located on BU’s Medical Campus on Albany Street in the South End, will now be able to work with pathogens such as Ebola and Marburg viruses.

“As we have seen over the past several years, we are all vulnerable to potentially devastating infectious diseases that may have originated halfway across the globe,” said Gloria Waters, BU vice president and associate provost for research, according to a report on BU Today. “With the opening of the NEIDL’s BSL-4 lab, BU is poised to establish itself as a national leader in fighting microbial systems and infectious diseases. The work that will be carried out here will bring benefit and relief in the form of vaccines, treatments, and cures to people in Boston, the United States, and around the world.

Click to read more in Boston Business Journal

Boston University To Begin Researching World’s Deadliest Infectious Diseases At ‘Biolab’ (Audio)

December 7th, 2017 in Featured, In The News, Lab Updates

Original article from WBUR by December 6th, 2017

Boston University has received final approval to begin researching the world’s deadliest infectious diseases at its so-called “Biolab” in Boston’s South End.

The Boston Public Health Commission gave that approval Wednesday. The Centers for Disease Control had given approval late last year.

The lab has been open but awaiting the final go-ahead for the highest-tier infectious disease research.

Ronald Corley, director of BU’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory, joined WBUR’s All Things Considered to discuss.

Click to listen on WBUR

Research On the World’s Deadliest Microbes will soon begin at a Boston Lab

December 7th, 2017 in Featured, In The News, Lab Updates

Original article from The Boston Globe by  December 6th, 2017

The Boston Public Health Commission on Wednesday gave the final approval for Boston University’s high-security laboratory to start research on the world’s deadliest microbes, ending a decade and a half of controversy.

The commission’s OK was the final step allowing the study of Biosafety Level 4 pathogens — those that have no treatment or vaccine, such as Ebola. Level 4 research could begin in a month or two at the facility, called the National Emerging Infectious Disease Laboratories.

Facing fierce opposition from neighbors and others concerned that dangerous germs would escape, the biolab underwent more than a dozen years of risk assessments, public hearings, and failed lawsuits. It received more than 50 permits and approvals from federal, state, and city agencies, most recently passing muster a year ago with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Boston Public Health Commission on Wednesday gave the final approval for Boston University’s high-security laboratory to start research on the world’s deadliest microbes, ending a decade and a half of controversy.

The commission’s OK was the final step allowing the study of Biosafety Level 4 pathogens — those that have no treatment or vaccine, such as Ebola. Level 4 research could begin in a month or two at the facility, called the National Emerging Infectious Disease Laboratories.

Facing fierce opposition from neighbors and others concerned that dangerous germs would escape, the biolab underwent more than a dozen years of risk assessments, public hearings, and failed lawsuits. It received more than 50 permits and approvals from federal, state, and city agencies, most recently passing muster a year ago with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Built with $200 million in federal money, the building has been looming, mostly empty, over the South End near Boston Medical Center since its completion in 2008.

Opponents, including people who live nearby, have said it poses unnecessary risks to the neighborhood and belongs in a more remote area. But a risk assessment by an environmental consulting firm concluded that the likelihood of members of the public becoming infected was “extremely low or beyond reasonably foreseeable.”

For five years, teams of microbiologists, virologists, engineers, and other scientists have been doing research on less-dangerous germs in the building. Now, they will be able to move into a separate earthquake-proof structure within the building, encased in 12-inch-thick walls.

Click to read more in Boston Globe