02 Apr Texas Biomed Launches Multi-Species Study to Accelerate COVID-19 Drug Testing
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. Larry Schlesinger MD
Professor, President and CEO
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background and mission of Texas Biomed?
Response: Texas Biomedical Research Institute (Texas Biomed) is a not-for-profit, independent research institute with a strong history of pioneering, biomedical breakthroughs that have contributed to the world of science and human health for nearly 80 years. The Texas Biomed mission is to pioneer and share scientific breakthroughs that protect you, your families and our global community from the threat of infectious diseases. Texas Biomed is capitalizing on its strengths – outstanding collaborative scientists and unique assets and resources. Texas Biomed is home to the nation’s only privately-owned BSL4 facility, five fully outfitted BSL3 facilities with the latest technologies and the Southwest National Primate Research Center (SNPRC). The Institute focuses on a core understanding of the basic biology of infectious diseases, animal model development, and studies to move therapies and vaccines to human clinical trials. The Institute’s independent, nonprofit business model moves science from the bench to clinical trials faster and with less bureaucracy.
MedicalResearch.com: Would you briefly explain what is meant by reverse genetics?
Response: Rather than looking at a gene and then seeing what that gene phenotypically expresses, such as brown hair or blue eyes, reverse genetics looks at expression of a gene and then tries to find the genetic sequence responsible. Reverse genetic technologies in virology allow scientists to take DNA or RNA from a virus and work backwards to generate a mutant gene that causes the virus to express itself differently than it normally would.
MedicalResearch.com: How does Texas Biomed plan to use the technology to combat the COVID-19 epidemic?
Response: Reverse genetic technology opens the door for Texas Biomed scientists to study a virus in multiple ways, including understanding factors that control virus entry and exit from cells, replication in cells and gene expression. This also enables research to discover how a virus causes disease and develop live-attenuated viruses for use as vaccines and/or vaccine vectors.
MedicalResearch.com: What other animal models for infectious diseases has Texas Biomed developed?
Response: The Institute has worked for decades with government (HHS: NIH, BARDA; DoD), private and public partners performing regulated, GLP-level studies that have helped bring the hepatitis B vaccine, hepatitis C therapies, and the current Ebola therapy to the FDA and ultimately to patients.
MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Response: Texas Biomed has unique capabilities in vaccine and drug development, as well as the development of animal models. Multiple COVID-19 related vaccine and therapeutic candidates are in the pipeline. Safety studies, as well as research into how these drugs interact with both the human body and the virus must be completed in animal models in parallel with human trials in order to be approved by the FDA. The role Texas Biomed plays in getting therapies and vaccines into the hands of patients is critical. The current COVID-19 pandemic underscores the importance of the Institute’s mission and has quickly galvanized the scientific team and engaged the Institute’s supporters to mobilize resources and aid the world in finding interventions to fight COVID-19. We are proud to have the support of our community but investment in research cannot just happen in times of crisis. We need to turn this support into a sustained worldwide effort to fund research in order to ensure we are combatting the crisis of today and the challenges of tomorrow.
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