New project on developing countermeasures for natural and intentional exposure to disease pathogens

Researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have received a $5.6 million grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Army Research Office (ARO) to develop transient immunity against known, unknown, naturally occurring, or engineered disease-causing pathogens. The ultimate goal is to develop a viable countermeasure to an unknown pathogen within seven days of receiving it in a laboratory.

"In the past, medical responses to large-scale disease outbreaks have been very slow," said Marasco. "Often it has taken many months to years to research and create medicines or vaccines, time barriers that often result in loss of life. This program gives us an opportunity to very rapidly provide ways to prevent infection and extend survival until long-term solutions are available."

Marasco will direct an international team of leading scientists and businesses engaged in the study of pathogen detection, screening, and therapeutic formulation and manufacturing. The team will pursue two parallel paths toward the program goals: First, to rapidly select broadly neutralizing phage antibodies for direct use as therapeutics for microbial infection; and Second, to investigate selective anti-idiotypic stimulation of B-cell precursors leading to secretion of antibodies with broad-spectrum, natural, anti-microbial activity.

In addition to Dana-Farber, the other institutions and organizations that comprise the research team are Columbia University, New York; Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute, Albuquerque, N.M., sanofi pasteur VaxDesign Campus, Orlando, Fla., Virapur, San Diego; University of Alberta, Canada; and Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia. Latham BioPharm Group, Maynard, Mass., is the systems integrator for the 13-month project.

Source: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

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