Research at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU), analyzing two potentially fatal viruses that can be transmitted from livestock to humans, has resulted in a vaccine to prevent infection in horses and a treatment for humans who have been exposed.
Hendra and Nipah viruses are disease-causing agents that emerged in the 1990s causing serious outbreaks in humans and livestock in Australia, Bangladesh, India, Malaysia and Singapore. The fatality rate for infected humans is 40% to 100%. More than 700,000 doses of the USU-originated equine vaccine for the Hendra virus have been administered to nearly 170,000 horses since 2015, and no vaccinated horse has been infected with Hendra.
Since 2010, 14 people have received USU-developed high-dose antibody therapy on an emergency use basis because of high-risk exposure to Hendra or Nipah, and all have remained well. A human vaccine is also in development. In 2012, the HeV-sG vaccine was licensed to Zoetis, an animal health products company now based in Parsippany, New Jersey, through the Joint Office of Technology Transfer of USU and the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine (USU-HJF JOTT). This partnership led to the approval of the Equivac®HeV equine vaccine in Australia in 2015.
This vaccine, the only antiviral approach for Hendra infection, is a One-Health measure that breaks the cycle of virus transmission from horses to humans. The m102.4 antibody, also developed at USU, is the only known treatment for humans exposed to or infected with Nipah or Hendra virus. An antibody is a protein that binds to a specific target; m102.4 specifically targets and neutralizes Hendra and Nipah viruses.
The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations has awarded up to $25 million to Profectus for clinical development and evaluation; the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and global health organization PATH have also provided support.
Technology transfer from USU, first with the government of Queensland, Australia, and then India, provides access to m102.4 antibody for people exposed to the Nipah or Hendra virus. This T2 story started in 2010, when a mother and daughter were exposed to Hendra in Australia, and USU provided the antibody under a compassionate-use agreement. Subsequent agreements allowed the Queensland government to conduct a clinical study and to produce the antibody for future use in Australia or in other locations.
When a Nipah outbreak occurred in Kerala, India, in May 2018, the USU-HJF JOTT coordinated a transfer of the antibody from the Queensland stockpile to the Indian Council of Medical Research for compassionate-use purposes.
Another USU license was issued in 2018 to Baltimore-based Profectus Biosciences Inc. for the development of a Nipah/Hendra human vaccine. The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations has awarded up to $25 million to Profectus for clinical development and evaluation; the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and global health organization PATH have also provided support.
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