The U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, or ECBC, and the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, or USAMRIID, are partnering to help expedite progress in the global fight against Ebola.
ECBC is working with USAMRIID on two critical studies – a vaccine study and a biomarker study – that will advance the global fight against Ebola.
Ebola is a rare and deadly disease caused by infection with the Ebola virus. The largest Ebola outbreak in history, which began in December 2013, is still ongoing. This disease has a high death rate – to date, there have been 22,000 cases and 9,000 deaths attributed to the most recent outbreak – with no known cure or effective vaccine. ECBC and USAMRIID are trying to change that.
USAMRIID, the Department of Defense’s lead laboratory for medical biological defense research, called upon the ECBC-US Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense Mass Spectrometry Core Facility to assist with two of its ongoing Ebola research programs – characterizing a potential vaccine and identifying biomarkers of infection.
For the vaccine work, ECBC is analyzing several different vaccine preparations provided by USAMRIID to quantify VP40 and glycoprotein concentrations expressed in virus-like particles generated from Ebola (strains Zaire and Sudan). The aim is to monitor quality control of the vaccine production process and to determine if a correlation can be made between protective immunity and the amount of Ebola-specific structural proteins, GP and VP40, that are present. This type of research is foundational in creating a long-term solution to a devastating disease.
“Our role was to blindly and independently quantitate the amount of protein present in each vaccine combination. With this information, we hope to better understand the varying degrees of protection observed during the vaccine study,” said Trevor Glaros, an ECBC mass spectrometry core facility manager leading the ECBC/USAMRIID Ebola collaboration.
In addition to vaccine research, ECBC is also supporting USAMRIID to discover Ebola-specific biomarkers in serum. The scientists will analyze Ebola-infected serum to discover a protein-based panel of biomarkers.
“The hope is that this panel of biomarkers will constitute a unique fingerprint for Ebola infection, which can be used to diagnose patients before symptoms develop,” stated Lisa Cazares, the USAMRIID researcher leading the project. A tool like this would give first responders the ability to administer the appropriate care and the unprecedented ability to track the disease outbreak in real time. Biological analysis of this scope required additional instrumentation, which ECBC was able to secure from its partner, Thermo Fisher Scientific.
Thermo Fisher Scientific generously loaned ECBC a complete Q Exactive Plus mass spectrometry system with a Dynex nanoflow liquid chromatography pump and autosampler. This new equipment relieves the burden on existing instrumentation and, given its technological advancements, allows for a more rapid and thorough analysis. ECBC’s contribution to USAMRIID’s Ebola research demonstrates how various organizations team up to provide solutions for the world’s most difficult and dangerous challenges.
“It is important for us to support our DOD partners with this kind of critical research,” said Jennifer Sekowski, Ph.D., of ECBC. “Our goal in creating the Mass Spectrometry Core Facility in 2013 was to set up a collaborative resource for all of the DOD. We have the equipment, the expertise, and the necessary safety protocols in place, so we are thrilled to be able to share it with our partners.”