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 a 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.
October 12, 2020
CEEZAD’s Director Featured in Panel on Research Development
The Director of the Center of Excellence For Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases (CEEZAD) and the Center on Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (CEZID) recently offered suggestions to researchers at K-State for how to build a successful research infrastructure, research collaborations, and research enterprise.
Dr. Juergen A. Richt, The Regents Distinguished Professor at Kansas State University, where CEEZAD and CEZID are based, was part of a panel of K-State researchers featured in a webinar on research productivity which was put together by KSU’s Researcher Academy. Members of the panel had experience in executing successful research projects in a collaborative environment.
In Dr. Richt’s case, he collaborated with Dr. Caterina Scoglio, of KSU’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, to research the epidemiology of the Rift Valley Fever Outbreak in Uganda.
Dr. Richt told the webinar participants that in developing collaborative working arrangements, he stresses the concept of synergy. “I use a very simple formula,” he said. “The formula is 1 + 1 equals minimum 3. It has to be synergistic.”
He cited advice given by famed investor Warren Buffet. “He prefers to associate with people he admires and he likes…and who provide the expertise and trust I like to work with,” Dr. Richt said. Trust, he emphasized, doesn’t always develop overnight, and must run deeper than merely the people at the top of each entity’s organization. “It’s the people in the collaborator’s lab and in my lab - they also have to develop trust,” he said. “These are two different groups with two different missions, and they have to be merged into one common mission.”
He also stressed flexibility. “Everything is always changing so you have to adapt to your environment and to the times,” he said. “We have 21st Century problems (and) we have to attack/solve them with 21st Century technology.”
He said he facilitates that flexibility with the way he builds his team. Richt’s lab is staffed by researchers with varying competencies enabling the lab’s personnel to take on a wide range of research. “I call it the Nine Yards Research,” he said. “We do molecular biology and reverse genetics of viruses, we do animal model development, we do pathology, we do immunology. Cross-department and cross-institutional collaboration fill in the inevitable gaps. “If I need other intellectual or technological infrastructure we go out and look for it,” he said.
Dr. Richt said one of his ongoing efforts focused on rapid responsiveness, an aspect he honed by developing his own internal structure that enables him to accelerate the response time often built into the university structure. “We are very successful with that and very fast,” he said. “For example, we have a Basic Ordering Agreement with the Department of Homeland Security so if they come to me I can say yes, I can do it ... (and) this sometimes has a turnaround of less than 3 days.”
That internal structure, he said, “gives me an advantage over other groups who do not have this structure in place.”
The full webinar can be viewed by clicking on this link:
October 2, 2020
CEEZAD Director co-authors Nature paper
on COVID-19 research in animals
The Director of the Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases (CEEZAD) is co-author of a recently published article describing preclinical animal models for COVID-19 research.
Dr. Juergen A. Richt was among the authors of the article, titled “Animal Models for COVID-19,” published in the Sept. 23 edition of “Nature,” a weekly journal (Nature. 2020. doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-2787-6. PMID: 32967005).
The article reviews the state-of-the-art research into COVID-19 animal models conducted by an international panel assembled by the World Health Organization, of which Dr. Richt is a part, for efficacy studies on COVID-19 therapeutics and vaccines.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the virus that causes COVID-19, a respiratory infection caused by the introduction of a novel coronavirus into humans late in 2019. As of October 1, SARS-CoV-2 had spread to 215 countries, has infected more than 34 million people, and has caused more than 1,00,000 deaths.
As humans do not have pre-existing immunity to SARS-CoV-2, there is an urgent need to develop therapeutic agents and vaccines to mitigate the current pandemic and to prevent the re-emergence of COVID-19. In February 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) assembled a panel, including Dr. Richt, to pursue the development of preclinical animal models for COVID-19 research.
The review whose findings were published in “Nature” summarizes the findings to date and provides relevant information for preclinical animal models that can be used to test the efficacy of vaccine candidates and therapeutic agents for COVID-19.
The full article can be read by following this link: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32967005/
September 1, 2020
CEEZAD researchers receive two grants, totaling nearly $1.5 million, for work on SARS CoV-2 virus
The Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases (CEEZAD) at Kansas State University has received a pair of grants totaling nearly $1.5 million for research related to SARS CoV-2,
One of the grants, for $861,253, is from the Department of Homeland Security and will underwrite a study into preclinical animal models for efficacy testing of novel COVID-19 therapies in hamsters, mice, ferrets, and cats. Each of those species is susceptible to SARS-CoV-2. The goal is to evaluate novel antiviral therapies against COVID-19.
The second grant, for $625,460, is from the National Institutes of Health, Centers of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance (CEIRS). The purpose of the proposed work is to evaluate the susceptibility of several animal species to SARS-CoV-2.
Research on the susceptibility of different animals to SARS-CoV-2 infection will greatly contribute to future mitigation strategies against SARS-CoV-2 infection since it may lead to valuable preclinical models for the evaluation of vaccines and therapeutics against SARS-CoV-2 infections.
Dr. Juergen A. Richt, CEEZAD’s director, said the two grants will underwrite a continuation of CEEZAD’s vital research into strategies for mitigating the spread of the SARS CoV-2 virus and to develop new drugs and vaccines. “Given the threat posed by the spread of this virus in society and no vaccine and therapies exist to date, these projects may be the most important ongoing research efforts we could undertake,” Richt said.
September 1, 2020
Article reports on CEEZAD researchers’ study of the stability of SARS CoV-2 on surfaces in different seasonal conditions
An important study by researchers at the Center of Excellence For Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases (CEEZAD) has been published at the website bioRxiv.com.
The study, authored by CEEZAD researchers Taeyong Kwon, Natasha Gaudreault, and Dr. Juergen A. Richt, details findings of research into the stability of SARS CoV-2 on various common surfaces under indoor, summer, and spring/fall conditions.
Human contact with infected surfaces is one of the principal means of acquiring the SARS-CoV-2 virus. That makes the ability of the virus to survive on common surfaces of great importance.
The study looked at the ability of the virus to remain potent on numerous surfaces, among them cloth, concrete, glass, stainless steel, and also on various forms of protective devices such as Nitrile glove and Tyvek.
It found that the virus is more stable under Midwestern spring/fall weather conditions, with half-lives ranging from 17.11 to 31.82 hours, depending on the surface. In contract, SARS-CoV-2 half-life is only 2.54 – 5.58 hours under summer conditions. The survival time under indoor conditions is somewhere between the spring/fall and summer conditions.
The full article can be accessed at https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.08.30.274241v1
August 24, 2020
CEEZAD study finds a way to improve genomic data collection for African Swine Fever
A study on African Swine Fever conducted by researchers at the Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases (CEEZAD) has been published in the Journal of Virological Methods.
The study was conducted by a research team led by Dr. Juergen A. Richt, CEEZAD’s director. Other CEEZAD researchers included David Meekins, Jessie Trujillo, Natasha Gaudreault, and Igor Morozov. Daniel Perez-Nunez, and Yolanda Revilla, both of the CBMSO-CSIC-UAM, in Madrid, also participated.
African Swine Fever Virus (ASFV) causes a transmissible and fatal disease in pigs that are currently devastating global swine production. Efficient and economical collection of genetic data from ASFV field isolates is essential for bio-surveillance, to limit and control its spread, and to better understand ASF disease ecology.
Standard genotyping and subtyping of ASFV field isolates are currently limited to a few regions within the ASFV genome. However, more extensive sequencing is necessary to better understand ASFV molecular evolution and identify novel regions relevant to genetic diversity.
In this study, CEEZAD researchers report on their development of a method for rapid and efficient next-generation sequencing of approximately 40% of the ASFV genome using long PCR amplification of six different genomic regions. The amplified regions contain all segments currently used for genotyping and additional genes predicted to contribute to ASFV diversity. The primers used for amplification are broadly compatible with published ASFV genomes, which permits their use on relevant ASFV isolates.
The CEEZAD researchers found that implementation of this methodology could substantially increase the scale of ASFV genetic data collection, which is necessary to effectively monitor and combat this critical agricultural disease.
August 21, 2020
CEEZAD research cited in a new study on cats and COVID-19
The director of the Center of Excellence on Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases (CEEZAD) is among experts quoted in a recently published article on whether pets can spread SARS-CoV-2 to humans.
Dr. Juergen A. Richt, Regents Distinguished Professor at Kansas State University and CEEZAD’s director, is quoted in the article written by Alice Klein for www.newscientist.com. The full article can be read by following this link. https://www.newscientist.com/article/2251572-are-pets-at-risk-of-getting-covid-19-and-can-they-spread-it-to-people/
In the article, Klein notes that lab experiments conducted by Richt and other CEEZAD researchers have shown that infected cats can pass the virus easily to other cats, but that the ability of cats to transmit the virus to humans is not clear.
August 21, 2020
CEEZAD researchers publish findings of the SARS-CoV-2 study on pigs
A new study by researchers at the Center of Excellence For Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases (CEEZAD) looks at the susceptibility of swine cells and domestic pigs to the SARS CoV-2 virus.
The study was published in bioRxiv, a website reporting on biological research news. The full article can be read at the following link. https://biorxiv.org/cgi/content/short/2020.08.15.252395v1
The CEEZAD research team was led by Dr. Juergen A. Richt, CEEZAD’s director. Co-authors included David A. Meekins, Igor Morozov, Jessie D. Trujillo, Natasha N. Gaudreault, Dashzeveg Bold, Bianca Artiaga, Sabarish V. Indran, Taeyong Kwon, Velmurugan Balaraman, Daniel W. Madden, Heinz Feldmann, Jamie Henningson, Wenjun Ma, Udeni and B.R. Balasuriya.
The article focuses on the susceptibility of swine and swine cells to the SARS CoV-2 virus. The emergence of SARS-CoV-2 has resulted in an ongoing global pandemic with significant morbidity, mortality, and economic consequences. The susceptibility of different animal species to SARS-CoV-2 is of concern due to the potential for interspecies transmission, and the requirement for pre-clinical animal models to develop effective countermeasures.
In the current study, CEEZAD researchers determined that SARS-CoV-2 replicated in porcine cell lines but didn’t establish infection in domestic pigs via experimental inoculation. Nor did it transmit to co-housed naive sentinel pigs.
These data indicate that although different porcine cell lines are permissive to SARS-CoV-2, young pigs are not susceptible to infection via oral/intranasal/intratracheal inoculation. Pigs are, therefore, unlikely to be significant carriers of SARS-CoV-2 and are not a suitable preclinical animal model to study SARS-CoV-2 pathogenesis or efficacy of respective vaccines or therapeutics.
August 11, 2020
CEEZAD study on cat susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 is discussed on promedmail.org
A recently published study by researchers at the Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases is the focus of a posting at promedmail.org (see: CORONAVIRUS DISEASE 2019 UPDATE : ANIMAL, CAT, RESEARCH, EXPERIMENTAL INFECTION), one of the leading websites for public health researchers.
The posting summarizes findings of the CEEZAD study, which found that SARS-CoV-2 can efficiently replicate in cats and be transmitted to other cats. The entire manuscript is posted at biorxiv (https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.08.04.235002v1.full).
The study found that 4-5-month old cats remained clinically asymptomatic after SARS-CoV-2 infection and capable of transmitting SARS-CoV-2 to sentinels within 2 days of comingling. These results are critical for an understanding of the clinical course of SARS-CoV-2 in a naturally susceptible host species, and for risk assessment of the maintenance of SARS-CoV-2 in felines and potential transmission to other animals and humans.
The study’s authors include Natasha N. Gaudreault, Jessie Trujillo, David A. Meekins, Igor Morozov, Daniel W. Madden, Sabarish Indran, Dashzeveg Bold, Velmurugan Balaraman, Taeyong Kwon, Bianca Libanori Artiaga, Konner Cool, Wenjun Ma, Jamie Henningson and Dr. Juergen A. Richt, all of KSU.
Other authors include Mariano Carossino and Udeni Balasuriya of Louisiana State University, Adolfo Garcia-Sastre of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, and William Wilson of the Arthropod-Borne Animal Disease Research Unit in Manhattan, KS.
August 10, 2020
CEEZAD research on cats, coronavirus is cited
Work by researchers at the Center of Excellence For Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases (CEEZAD) on the ability of cats to transmit the Coronavirus to other cats is the focus of a recently published article on the website gizmodo.com
The article was written by Ed Cara and cites work done by Dr. Juergen Richt, CEEZAD’s director and lead author of the study. The text of the article can be read by following the link below.
July 27, 2020
How a K-State research lab is fighting back against COVID-19
The Wichita Eagle
By Katherine Dynarski
Kansas State University’s Biosecurity Research Institute, a laboratory most known for its high-tech livestock and food-processing research facilities, may seem like an unlikely setting for the fight against COVID-19. Research at the Biosecurity Research Institute typically focuses on pathogens that threaten the food supply by infecting crops or livestock animals.
The novel coronavirus pandemic, and earlier epidemics such as SARS and MERS, has shown that the line between animal and human health is often blurry. Veterinary researchers at the Biosecurity Research Institute have spent their careers planning and preparing to diagnose, prevent, and treat animal disease outbreaks that can threaten the nation’s food supply.
A ‘FORTRESS FOR RESEARCH’
Housed on the K-State campus in Manhattan, the Biosecurity Research Institute has been instrumental in protecting the agricultural supply chain since 2008.
It’s one of the most advanced laboratories in the country for studying pathogens that can infect crops, livestock, and food. The research hub contains multiple biosafety level 3 labs — the second-highest possible level of security. The Institute frequently collaborates with government agencies such as the USDA and the Department of Homeland Security to study infectious diseases threatening food security and human health.
“SARS-CoV-2 came along, and we’re the only facility that has the safety, the security, the training, the personnel that can do that type of research,” said Dr. Stephen Higgs, the director of the Biosecurity Research Institute. With its complex ventilation system, multiple power backups, and highly trained staff, the Biosecurity Research Institute has been described as a “fortress for research.” These engineering features enable its researchers to safely handle dangerous animal and plant pathogens.
The hope is that if one of their drug candidates works well in hamsters, it will be given emergency use authorization approval to move rapidly into human clinical trials.
The antiviral drug remdesivir is currently the main contender for a COVID-19 treatment, but it needs to be administered with an IV drip in a hospital. This requires precious resources and personnel, potentially straining already overloaded hospitals and causing a treatment bottleneck.
Richt and colleagues are focusing on compounds that can be administered orally or as a nasal spray. This would allow patients to take the drug at home, expanding access to treatment, and lessening the burden on hospitals.
RULING OUT MOSQUITOES
Containing the coronavirus pandemic also depends on understanding how the disease spreads. Scientists know that the novel coronavirus originated in an animal host, dominantly thought to be a bat, before making the leap to infecting humans. Now, researchers are concerned that humans might transmit the virus to new animal populations.
“Zoonotic diseases go both ways. They go from animals to humans, but humans can bring them back to animals,” explained Richt, who also directs the K-State Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases. “This is something that can change the epidemiology of the disease.”
The mathematical models that epidemiologists use to predict the spread of the coronavirus don’t account for the transmission of the virus from animals to humans – if animals can transfer the disease to humans, it could fundamentally change predictions of the virus’s spread.
Work at the Biosecurity Research Institute offers some relieving news. In a study published this month, a group of Biosecurity Research Institute researchers showed that the coronavirus cannot replicate inside of common mosquito species. That means that if a mosquito bites an infected person, it cannot spread COVID-19 to other people it bites.
June 22, 2020
Check out the Kansas State University OIP Digital Magazine in which CEEZAD research is featured.
June 22, 2020
Director is cited in China Daily article on coronavirus
The director of the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine-based Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases and the Center on Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases was among an international field of experts cited in a recently published article on the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
The article, published by China Daily and titled, “The clever game of the coronavirus,” cites Dr. Juergen A. Richt for his expertise in the ability of the virus to mutate, creating variants that could enable it to infect different species, including humans.
It also cites him in a discussion of the role played by the consumption of exotic meats – which tend to be less regulated – than more common ones.
The article was written by Jenny Wang and Wang Yuke.
The full article can be read by following this link.
June 8, 2020
Nature article raises the potential for animal-to-human virus transmission
An article in the June 1 edition of Nature highlights research conducted by the Director of the Center of Excellence For Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases (CEEZAD) on the potential for animals to catch the SARS-CoV-2 virus and pass it along to people.
The article focuses on a manuscript by CEEZAD Director, Dr. Juergen A. Richt, and fellow scientists for stepped-up research into the susceptibility of companion animals and livestock to SARS-CoV-2.
Led by Dr. Richt, CEEZAD researchers are involved in laboratory studies to determine the susceptibility and ease with which the SARS-CoV-2 virus is transmitted among animals.
He said scientists are “very concerned that decision-makers haven’t taken the issue of inter-species transmission seriously. It is known, for instance, that a New York zookeeper passed the virus on to a tiger in his/her care, and that it also has been passed to mink and – importantly – from mink back to people. “We need to address this issue in a proactive, not a reactive, manner,” Dr. Richt said.
The Nature News article, written by Smitri Mallapaty, found that there has been insufficient research on the potential for various animals to spread the disease. You can read the full article here: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-01574-4
Evidence that the SARS-CoV-2 virus infects animals, as well as humans, is clear. In Wuhan, China, a study found that 15 percent of cats tested were found to be seropositive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. In the Netherlands, authorities had to shut down a half-mile radius around two mink farms after the virus was discovered among those animals.
Since cases of COVID-19 patients spreading the virus to cats, dogs, and mink have been documented, the potential for these animals to spread the virus back to humans cannot be ruled out. That’s what makes the research vital.
In a recently published manuscript co-authored by Dr. Richt, 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, the authors make the argument that research needs to be stepped up on the question of whether companion animals, zoo animals, and livestock are susceptible and have the ability to transmit the virus.
In the manuscript, the authors note that some humans who subsequently tested positive for COVID-19 reported an early 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/or ageusia/ dysgeusia occur in SARS-CoV-2-infected animals, specifically in military working dogs, in beagle brigades at the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and K9 first responder teams. If so, infection of those working dogs could compromise their use in such governmental functions as bomb- or 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; this could be a national security problem. “Then we have a big, big issue,” he said.
To date, CEEZAD researchers have focused their efforts on whether pigs and cats are susceptible and can transmit the virus. The answer is that pigs cannot. “We did a severe virus challenge of the pigs,” he said. “We didn’t see any clinical signs or shedding of the virus.” He noted that Chinese scientists also have studied pigs, and also found neither susceptibility nor transmissibility. In contrast, cats are highly susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection and also easily transmit the virus to contact animals.
But those studies are merely the first steps. There are numerous companion or food animals that routinely come into contact with SARS-CoV-2-infected humans, and the susceptibility and transmissibility of several of them need to be studied.
The fact that a significant percentage of cats were found to be infected in Wuhan “tells you that cats could play a role in the whole COVID-19 epidemiology,” he said.
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 the 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 whether they are effective against SARS-CoV-2, and also whether they can be used safely for that purpose.
“Drug repurposing 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.
March 26, 2020
CEEZAD team develops an 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 the production of recombinant VP2 (rVP2), the outer capsid proteins of EHDV, in a baculovirus 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 sub-unit 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: