Corgenix Medical, a worldwide developer and marketer of diagnostic test kits, has been awarded a three-year, $2.9 million NIH grant to advance the development of an Ebola rapid diagnostic test kit. Collaborating with Corgenix on the program will be members of the Viral Hemorrhagic Fever Consortium (VHFC), a collaboration of academic and industry members headed by Tulane University and partially funded by the NIH.
The NIH phase II, R44 grant is a continuation of a previous two-year grant to develop special proteins for use in testing. It is the fifth major grant or contract awarded to Corgenix and its VHFC collaborative partners to combat dangerous viral hemorrhagic fevers, including Ebola, Lassa and Marburg viruses. Development of the Ebola test would enable rapid response to public health and bioterrorism threats posed by the deadly virus.
“This grant comes at a critical time for Ebola and related virus research,” said Douglass Simpson, Corgenix president and CEO. “Ebola virus outbreaks are relatively uncommon, but when they do occur, they are deadly and can spread rapidly. This latest outbreak demonstrates that point-of-care testing will be needed on a routine basis to diagnose or rule out both Ebola and Lassa in West Africa, now that Ebola is present in a Lassa endemic region.”
The grant enables researchers to further develop efforts for a point-of-care test kit that can be used in any clinical or field lab to determine in a matter of minutes if a patient is infected with Ebola. Corgenix and the VHFC already have developed and CE marked the ReLASV rapid test for the Lassa fever virus.
“Ebola is clearly a problem that’s not going away,” said Robert Garry, Ph.D., professor of microbiology and immunology at the Tulane University School of Medicine. “This grant allows us to build on our previous Ebola testing research, ultimately putting local and regional governments and healthcare workers in a much better position to identify and contain outbreaks with rapid diagnostic testing.”
Current testing for the Ebola virus requires special biohazard handling and sending test samples long distances to special labs—a process that takes several days and results in a critical loss of time to diagnose, treat and help prevent the spread of the virus.
Ebola is indigenous to Africa and is one of the deadliest viruses on the planet, with mortality rates of between 50% and 90%. Ebola infection is characterized by bleeding and coagulation abnormalities and can kill within 10 days to two weeks. Ebola and other viral hemorrhagic fevers are difficult to diagnose because many of the early signs and symptoms resemble those of other infectious diseases such as typhoid and malaria.
The most recent outbreak of Ebola in West Africa started in Guinea and then spread into Liberia and now into Sierra Leone.