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The Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases (CEEZAD) at Kansas State University was established in 2010 to help protect the nation’s agricultural and public health sectors against high-consequence foreign animal, emerging and zoonotic disease threats. CEEZAD has four principal missions:

  • Development of novel, safe, efficacious and DIVA-compatible vaccines for prevention and control of high-impact emerging and zoonotic diseases that can be manufactured in the U.S.
  • Development and expansion of technologies and platforms for laboratory and point-of-need pathogen detection.
  • Development of models to predict high-consequence disease behavior in the U.S. to aid prevention or outbreak control.
  • Development of education and training programs for students, veterinarians, first responders and researchers in high-impact animal diseases and animal emergencies.

 News/Events Highlights

May 18, 2020

CEEZAD director’s article on COVID-19 research needs getting national attention

A recently published manuscript related to critical needs for COVID-19 research on companion animals and livestock, co-authored by a top Kansas State University researcher, is getting national attention.

Dr. Juergen Richt, director of the Kansas State University-based DHS Center of Excellence For Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases (CEEZAD), co-wrote the article with Dr. Tracey McNamara of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, Calif., and Dr. Larry Glickman, of the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology at Purdue. In it, the authors make the argument that research needs to be stepped on the role of companion animals and livestock in the epidemiology of COVID-19.

Since its release, the article has gotten attention in various stakeholder-related media. Drovers, the online site of the beef production system, wrote about the researchers’ conclusions this week, and included a link to the original article. https://www.drovers.com/article/k-state-infectious-disease-expert-offers-path-covid-19-research

The article has also been included in the most recent anthology of alerts by the U.S. Animal Health Association. https://www.usaha.org/Daily#NEWS4

The article reports on the need for studies to determine the susceptibility and ease with which the SARS-CoV-2 virus is transmitted among pet and livestock species.

Dr. Richt said scientists are “concerned that scientists and epidemiologists haven’t taken the issue of trans-species transmission seriously.” Scientists know, for instance, hat a New York zookeeper passed the virus on to a tiger in his care. “We need to address these issues in a proactive, not a reactive, manner,” Dr. Richt said.

Beyond the simple issue of whether COVID-19 patients infect their pets, which can also work the other way around, the dimensions of the question relate both to national security and also to the resilience of our agricultural systems.

In the manuscript, the authors note that some patients who subsequently tested positive for COVID-19 reported a loss of smell and taste. The American College of Otolaryngology proposed adding anosmia, hyposmia, dysgeusia, and ageusia to the list of screening items for COVID-19 patients. This raises the question of whether hyposmia/anosmia and ageusia/ dysgeusia occur in animals, specifically in military working dogs, in beagle brigades at Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and K9 first responder teams.

If so, infection of those working animals could compromise their use in such critical governmental functions as bomb-and-drug-sniffing. Dr. Richt noted that dogs have 220 million scent receptors, 44 times more than humans. What happens, he asked, if working dogs are infected and lose their sense of smell? “Then we have a big, big problem, which can jeopardize our national security,” he said.


May 15, 2020

CEEZAD researchers involved in study to re-purpose existing drugs to fight COVID

Researchers at the DHS Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Diseases (CEEZAD) in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University are involved in studies designed to determine the potential for use of existing pharmaceuticals against the COVID-19 virus.

Dr. Juergen Richt, CEEZAD’s director, said the drugs in question have already been in clinical trials or are FDA-approved for use against other diseases including cancer, Crohn’s Disease, bacterial infections and others. The studies in which the CEEZAD scientists are engaged are designed to determine both whether they are effective against SARS-CoV-2, and also whether they can be used safely for that purpose.

“Drug re-purposing for COVID-19 treatments is very important; we hope doing this work will save lives,” Dr. Richt said.

The study is being conducted by CEEZAD in conjunction with several research entities, among them the Scripps Research Institute in LaJolla, Calif. (Dr. Sean Joseph), and UCSF in San Francisco (Dr. Nevan Krogan). In addition to Dr. Richt, key members of the study team include Dr. Sumit Chanda of the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute in LaJolla, and Dr. Adolfo Garcia-Sastre at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

The emergence of SARS-CoV-2 has triggered an ongoing global pandemic of severe acute respiratory disease. To date, more than 4.5 million confirmed cases and 300,000 deaths have been reported worldwide, and there are currently no medical countermeasures available to prevent (vaccines) or treat (antiviral drugs) the disease.

As the development of a vaccine could require at least 12-18 months, repositioning of known drugs, which are safe for human use, can significantly accelerate the development and deployment of therapies for COVID-19 patients. To identify therapeutics that can be repurposed as SARS-CoV-2 antivirals, the scientists have profiled a library of known drugs encompassing approximately 12,000 clinical-stage or FDA approved small molecules.

In a recently published manuscript, the study team identifies 30 known drugs that effectively inhibit viral replication. Of these, six showed half maximal effective concentrations (EC50) likely to be commensurate with therapeutic doses in human patients.

These include the PIKfyve kinase inhibitor Apilimod, cysteine protease inhibitors MDL-28170, Z LVG CHN2, VBY-825, and ONO 5334, the anti-leprosy drug Clafazimine and the CCR1 antagonist MLN-3897.

Since many of these molecules have advanced into the clinic, the known pharmacological and human safety profiles of these compounds will accelerate their preclinical and clinical evaluation for COVID-19 treatment.

CEEZAD scientists are in the process of testing the identified drugs in laboratory animals for efficacy against SARS-CoV-2. Dr. Richt said that if the drugs prove to be effective against COVID-19 in animals, the pharmaceuticals could quickly be repurposed for use by COVID-19 patients.


April 30, 2020

Which lab animals can help defeat the new coronavirus?

Researchers, such as the scientists at the Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Diseases (CEEZAD), obviously play the lead role in developing counter-measures against the COVID-19 virus.

An easily overlooked aspect of research on COVID-19 is the vital support role played by other species of animals: the laboratory test animal subjects on whom the world’s best-trained scientists pursue their research.  Without them even the best-trained scientists could not operate effectively.

A recently published article in Science, the magazine and website of the American Association For The Advancement of Science, underscores the vital role played by non-human subjects in the development of mitigation strategies.

The article, written by Jon Cohen, explores the relative advantages and disadvantages of scientific research on COVID-19 using various species: hamsters, mice, rats, cats, non-human primates (NHP) and ferrets among them. It makes a difference. Mice, for example, are a common research animal used in the study of numerous medical threats…yet they seem unusually immune to some coronaviruses.

Because the biology of non-human primates is similar in several important ways to humans, NHPs can be especially useful in treatment- and vaccine-development studies. But NHPs are relatively expensive to work with, suggesting that research must reach a particular point of certainty before using NHPs becomes economically feasible.

Each Thursday, the World Health Organization arranges a video conference of nearly 100 scientists, regulators, and funders who are collectively working with a menagerie of lab animals, including mice, ferrets, and several species of non-human primates. Dr. Juergen Richt, CEEZAD’s director, is a member of that group. 

Since COVID-19 has also recently been found in cats in households of COVID-19 patients, researchers are beginning to explore the possibility of their use in COVID-19 research on the virus.

You can read the full article at this link: www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/04/mice-hamsters-ferrets-monkeys-which-lab-animals-can-help-defeat-new-coronavirus# 

April 9, 2020

CEEZAD Director named to WHO committee involved in COVID-19 research

The Director of the Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases (CEEZAD) at Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine has been named to an important position related to the fight against the COVID-19 virus.

Dr. Juergen Richt, CEEZAD’s Director and Regents Distinguished Professor at Kansas State University, was appointed April 9 to an ad hoc Expert Group on the “development of pre-clinical models of COVID-19 disease.” The group was established by the World Health Organization.

The WHO is tasking the group to develop pre-clinical models of COVID-19 that can be used for the evaluation of vaccines and therapeutics against COVID-19.

Under Dr. Richt’s leadership, CEEZAD researchers have been engaged in the development of various mitigation strategies against COVID-19, including vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics.

The WHO group is comprised of scientists and experts in the field around the world. The group’s directive also includes providing guidance for industry relating to the development of new medicines to help protect the human population from COVID-19.

 “This is the most important fight in the world right now, and we at CEEZAD are happy to be able to assist in any way possible to help in developing effective strategies to prevent the further spread of this virus, and the suffering it is causing around the world,” Dr. Richt said.

April 7, 2020

CEEZAD Researchers Taking on COVID-19

Researchers at Kansas State University’s Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases (CEEZAD), under the direction of its director, Dr. Juergen A. Richt, are actively involved in the fight against the COVID-19 virus.

The Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine-based CEEZAD research team led by Dr. Richt is engaged in the development of mitigation strategies against COVID-19.

The goal of the research is to develop pre-clinical animal models and diagnostics, as well as treatments and eventually vaccines that will be effective against COVID-19. This work will be conducted within KSU's Biosecurity Research Institute (BRI).

“As a Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases, we are ready and able to help the State and Nation to perform this level of research,” Dr. Richt said. The research is taking place in collaboration with various industry partners.
For the diagnostic research, CEEZAD researchers are working closely with Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory - KSVDL (KSVDL), with Drs. Jamie Henningson, director of the VDL, and Dr. Roman Pogranichniy.

Although reports on the effects of COVID-19 have to date been focused on humans, the virus is a zoonotic pathogen, meaning that it has been transmitted from animals to humans. In Asia, Europe and in the United States, there have been recent reports that the virus can be transmitted to dogs and cats, and also to large cats in zoos. That is most likely due to reverse zoonoses, meaning COVID-19 human patients transmitted it to the animals.

The CEEZAD effort is designed to marshal the full range of the center’s research expertise against COVID-19.

“CEEZAD is fortunate to have such dedicated employees with a wide array of expertise in infectious diseases,” said Dr. Richt in explaining the research commitment.

Download Press Release here

March 26, 2020

CEEZAD team develops effective vaccine against Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease in white-tailed deer

Researchers at the Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases (CEEZAD), in collaboration with the USDA-ARS-Arthropod-Borne Animal Disease Research Unit (ABADRU), have developed a subunit vaccine that is effective against Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease in white-tailed deer.

Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease Virus (EHDV) is an arthropod-transmitted virus in wild and domestic ruminants. In North America, it is especially prevalent among white-tailed deer, although it has also been reported in cattle.

There is no USDA-licensed commercially available EDHV vaccine in North America.

The CEEZAD-ABADRU research team included Sun Young Sunwoo, Leela Noronha, Igor Morozov, Jessie Trujillo, In Joong Kim, Erin Schirtzinger, Bonto Faburay, Barbara Drolet, Kinga Urbaniak, D. Scott McVey, David Meekins, Mitchell Palmer, Velmurugan Balaraman,  William Wilson and Juergen Richt.

The study involved production of recombinant VP2 (rVP2), the outer capsid proteins of EHDV, in a bacolovirus expression system. Mice and cattle vaccinated with rVP2 from EHDV-2 or EHDV-6 rVP2 produced homologous virus-neutralizing antibodies.

Captive white-tailed deer received two doses of EHDV-2 rVP2 or sham vaccine, then were challenged with wild-type EHDV-2 at 30 days post-prime vaccination.

Dr. Richt, from CEEZAD, said “this is the first time an efficacious and DIVA-compatible subunit vaccine for EHDV is available.” He said the hope is that “our licensing partner can produce this vaccine as a vehicle to protect deer from this devastating disease.”

Dr. Wilson, from ABADRU, noted that the tests demonstrated “100 percent protection (of VP2 vaccinated animals) from infection by the same type of EHDV virus.” None of the rVP2-vaccinated deer developed clinical disease, no viral RNA was detected in their blood or tissues, and no EHDV-induced lesions were observed.

Sham-vaccinated deer developed clinical disease with viremia and typical EHD vascular lesions.

The test demonstrates the effectiveness of the EHDV rVP2 subunit vaccine in providing protective immunity from EDHV infection. The results also demonstrate its potential to serve as an effective tool in preventing clinical EHD and reducing virus transmissions.

March 25, 2020

CEEZAD representatives shown in DHS video on recent COE Summit

Two representatives of the Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases (CEEZAD) are featured in a recently released Department of Homeland Security video on the 2019 Centers of Excellence Summit outside Washington, D.C.

Stephanie Hober, CEEZAD Program Manager, and Willy Valdivia, CEO of Orion Integrated Biosciences – a CEEZAD-affiliated bioscience research corporation – are pictured in the three-minute video discussing topics and accomplishments of the COE summit.

Mrs. Hober is among those who discuss the Summit’s importance in integrating and coordinating the work of the various DHS-sponsored Centers of Excellence. At the summit, she notes in the video, “we get to meet a lot of different stakeholders and federal partners.”

The Summit was conducted at the George Mason University campus in Arlington, Va., just outside Washington. The event connected more than 500 subject matter experts from 350 different academic, industry, and government organizations and more than 40 students.

In his opening remarks, DHS Office of University Programs Director Matt Coats addressed the two central themes of the Summit– gray zone threats, and challenges posed by today’s hyper-connected world. Coats emphasized the role of COEs being at “the tip of the spear” of innovation as DHS evolves to address its current and emerging challenges.

You can view the full video at the link below: