July 9, 2012 - (Bronx, NY) - The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University a five-year, $4.8 million grant to study the molecular mechanism that allows the Ebola virus to cause infection and spread in animals.
The Ebola virus is one of the world's deadliest viruses, causing fatal hemorrhagic fevers in humans and in primates. It is highly contagious, and there is no known cure. Ebola kills up to 90 percent of the people it infects.
The grant award builds on earlier groundbreaking research. Einstein scientists were part of a multi-institutional team that helped to identify the protein (Niemann-Pick C1 or NPC1) critical for infection by the Ebola virus. The team, led at Einstein by Kartik Chandran, Ph.D., associate professor of microbiology & immunology and principal investigator of the new NIH grant, showed that cells that did not make NPC1 could not be infected by Ebola. The findings were published last August in Nature. A follow-up paper from the same team, published in EMBO Journal, demonstrated that NPC1 is an essential receptor for entry of Ebola virus into cells.
The NIH grant will study the interaction between NPC1 and Ebola that lead to infection and determine how NPC1 functions as a critical receptor for the virus. Because such interactions are often crucial to the emergence and spread of a virus into new populations, Einstein researchers are also investigating NPC1's role in infection within different species that may harbor the virus in nature.
"To learn more about how the virus might jump from animals to humans, we're studying the interaction between the virus and NPC1 proteins in different animals, like bats and rodents, that are found in known Ebola hotspots," said Dr. Chandran. "Our understanding of what controls Ebola's emergence is limited and we hope that our project will pinpoint possible targets for antiviral drugs designed to combat it."
Other investigators on this grant are from The Scripps Research Institute and the University of California, San Diego. Global Viral Forecasting, a pandemic surveillance organization, will provide the samples from animals native to Ebola-endemic areas in central and West Africa.
The grant "Mechanism of receptor-mediated entry and infection by filoviruses" (AI101436) was awarded by National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the NIH.
About Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University
Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University is one of the nation's premier centers for research, medical education and clinical investigation. During the 2011-2012 academic year, Einstein is home to 724 M.D. students, 248 Ph.D. students, 117 students in the combined M.D./Ph.D. program, and 368 postdoctoral research fellows. The College of Medicine has 2,522 full time faculty members located on the main campus and at its clinical affiliates. In 2011, Einstein received nearly $170 million in awards from the NIH. This includes the funding of major research centers at Einstein in diabetes, cancer, liver disease, and AIDS. Other areas where the College of Medicine is concentrating its efforts include developmental brain research, neuroscience, cardiac disease, and initiatives to reduce and eliminate ethnic and racial health disparities. Its partnership with Montefiore Medical Center, the University Hospital and academic medical center for Einstein, advances clinical and translational research to accelerate the pace at which new discoveries become the treatments and therapies that benefit patients. Through its extensive affiliation network involving Montefiore, Jacobi Medical Center - Einstein's founding hospital, and five other hospital systems in the Bronx, Manhattan, Long Island and Brooklyn, Einstein runs one of the largest post-graduate medical training programs in the United States, offering approximately 155 residency programs to more than 2,200 physicians in training. For more information, please visit www.einstein.yu.edu and follow us on Twitter @EinsteinMed.