Pentagon Eyes Search for Virus-Fighting Protein ‘Cocktails’

Diane Barnes
See more stories about...
Diane Barnes
Oct. 4, 2013, 10:02 a.m.

WASH­ING­TON — The U.S. De­fense De­part­ment is weigh­ing a new search for im­mune-pro­tein “cock­tails” it hopes will pro­tect hu­mans against Ebola and oth­er deadly, weapon-us­able vir­uses.

The Pentagon two weeks ago in­vited sci­ent­ists to sub­mit re­search pro­pos­als for design­ing “mono­clonal an­ti­bod­ies” that could pro­tect against Ebola and Mar­burg, as well as “al­phavir­uses” such as Venezuelan equine en­ceph­al­it­is.

Pentagon plan­ners have been turn­ing to an­ti­bod­ies as a pos­sible tool be­cause “no easy and quick fix” for such agents has emerged from ef­forts to de­vel­op vac­cines or tra­di­tion­al an­ti­vir­al treat­ments, said Gigi Gron­vall, a seni­or as­so­ci­ate with the Cen­ter for Health Se­cur­ity at the Uni­versity of Pitt­s­burgh Med­ic­al Cen­ter.

The early-stage re­search now un­der con­sid­er­a­tion ideally would lead to single-shot treat­ments cap­able of guard­ing troops for months from mul­tiple vir­us types, the De­fense Threat Re­duc­tion Agency said in a Sept. 18 so­li­cit­a­tion. DTRA of­fi­cials wel­comed re­search­ers to pro­pose “‘cock­tails’ that may en­able cross-pro­tec­tion against mul­tiple spe­cies of vir­us.”

The em­phas­is on “cock­tails” makes the latest DTRA pro­pos­al par­tic­u­larly not­able, be­cause sev­er­al stud­ies sug­gest that mixes of sev­er­al an­ti­bod­ies can be par­tic­u­larly ef­fect­ive in fight­ing patho­gens, Gron­vall told Glob­al Se­cur­ity News­wire in a tele­phone in­ter­view. An­ti­bod­ies hit their tar­gets with such spe­cificity that a treat­ment with mul­tiple im­mune pro­teins can help ac­count for slight vari­ations between in­vad­ing mi­crobes.

Mono­clonal an­ti­bod­ies have been in use since the 1980s to treat can­cer and im­mune-linked ail­ments such as rheum­at­oid arth­rit­is, but their use against in­fec­tious patho­gens has lagged, ac­cord­ing to a DTRA-sponsored re­port co-au­thored by Gron­vall on the tech­no­logy’s biode­fense po­ten­tial.

The United States last year li­censed the first in­hal­a­tion an­thrax treat­ment to use the tech­no­logy, which in­volves cre­at­ing massive quant­it­ies of a single im­mune “an­ti­body.” The hu­man body nat­ur­ally gen­er­ates such pro­teins, each of which is de­signed to mark a spe­cif­ic patho­gen or tox­in for elim­in­a­tion by oth­er im­mune-sys­tem com­pon­ents.

One an­ti­body cock­tail grown in mod­i­fied to­bacco plants showed prom­ising po­tency against Ebola in­fec­tions spe­cific­ally, ac­cord­ing to a study pub­lished in Au­gust.

“There have been a lot of changes in the way that mono­clonal an­ti­body tech­no­lo­gies have evolved over the last sev­er­al years, and it makes mono­clonal an­ti­bod­ies a very nice piece of their ap­proach to med­ic­al coun­ter­meas­ures,”  Gron­vall said.

The latest DTRA Broad Agency An­nounce­ment seeks pro­pos­als for stud­ies no longer than one year, with a cost no great­er than $500 mil­lion. The fil­ing dead­line is Oct. 16.

What We're Following See More »
FOLLOWED CLOSED DOOR MEETING
Peña Nieto, Trump Trade Subtle Jabs in Statements
7 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Following their meeting, President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico and Republican nominee for president, Donald Trump, briefly addressed the media, with Peña Nieto subtly rebuking Trump's rhetoric. While he spoke respectfully about Trump, Peña Nieto did not back down, saying that free trade has proved effective and that illegal immigration into America from the south has decreased over the last ten years while the flow of people and drugs into Mexico has increased. Additionally, he stressed that Mexicans in America are "honest" and "deserve respect." Trump responded, calling some Mexicans "tremendous people" while saying others are "beyond reproach." Trump laid out five important issues, including the end of illegal immigration and the ability for either country to build a wall or border. However, Trump said he did not discuss who would pay for the wall.

LOWER COURT RULING STANDS
SCOTUS Won’t Restore NC Voter ID Law
7 hours ago
THE LATEST

A divided Supreme Court "refused Wednesday to reinstate North Carolina’s voter identification requirement and keep just 10 days of early in-person voting. The court rejected a request by Gov. Pat McCrory and other state officials to delay a lower court ruling that found the state law was tainted by racial discrimination."

Source:
SMOKIN’ AND SHOOTIN’
Court: 2nd Amendment Doesn’t Protect Pot Users’ Gun Rights
8 hours ago
THE DETAILS
CHICAGO DISTRICT
Woman Self-Immolates in Congressman’s Office
10 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"Police say a woman walked into U.S. Rep. Danny Davis' office on Chicago's West Side, drank out of a bottle of hand sanitizer, poured the sanitizer over herself and set herself on fire with a lighter." The Democrat wasn't in the office at the time.

Source:
THE QUESTION
How Many Offices Does Trump Have in Battleground States?
13 hours ago
THE ANSWER

Eighty-eight, according to PBS. Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, has 291 offices in those same 15 states.

Source:
×